THE PHOTOCHEMISTRY OF POLYENYL RADICALS AND ITS APPLICATION TO UHMWPE FOR USE IN ARTIFICIAL CARTILAGE
Kasser, Michael Jacob
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The use of UV light as an alternative to thermal treatments above the melting point (150 °C) to remove free radicals in irradiated UHMWPE was explored. It was found that, in contrast to the allyl free radical which is converted by 258 nm light to alkyl free radicals, polyenyl radicals are not converted to alkyl radicals by UV light. None-the-less, by sandwiching UV light treatments between low temperature thermal anneals (100 °C), it was possible to reduce free radical concentrations by 30%. This reduction was achievable for depths up to one millimeter. However, this reduction did not have a significant effect on oxidation due to an increase in oxidation susceptibility because of the concurrent increase in concentration of easily abstracted allylic hydrogens. By photoirradiating for the optimal amount of time, it was possible, for the first time, to synthesize a polyethylene sample whose residual free radicals consisted of almost entirely dienyl free radicals. This allowed unambiguous identification and simulation of dienyl free radical's EPR spectra to be a singlet containing nine peaks separated by 9 G hyperfine separation. Detailed studies of photoirradiation of UHMWPE containing free radicals revealed that photoirradiation with a continuous spectrum above 200 nm causes the decay of diene unsaturations and allyl free radicals, a reduction in the overall amount of free radicals, and an increase in the degree of unsaturation of polyenyl free radicals. Upon longer photoirradiation times, polyenyl radicals were converted from lower to higher degrees of unsaturation. This effect was identical in the presence and absence of oxygen, but was suppressed by hydrogen gas. These results showed that the conversion does not occur by a linear alkyl radical addition mechanism wherein alkyl radicals migrate to stable polyene unsaturations and polyenyl radicals thereby increasing their order, as previously suggested. The valid mechanism appears to be the direct photoconversion of diene unsaturations to dienyl radicals and lower order polyenyl radicals to higher order polyenyl radicals.