Hydrolysis degradation of a set of drawn poly(lactic acid) (PLA) fibers was induced by an accelerated weathering test, radiating ultraviolet (UV) light under a certain temperature and humidity. The fine features of the transient behavior of the PLA fibers were captured by near-infrared (NIR) hyperspectral imaging. The PLA fibers showed a gradual decrease in mechanical property (e.g., tensile strength), indicating hydrolysis degradation. Thus, the detailed analysis of the spectral variation, in turn, offers useful information on the molecular-level degradation behavior of the drawn PLA fibers. The variation of the spectral intensity as well as band position shift of the crystalline band of PLA was analyzed. The spectral intensity of the crystalline band of PLA showed gradual decrease, suggesting the decrease in molecular weight induced by the hydrolysis degradation. In addition, the crystalline band also exhibited a coinciding shift to the lower wavenumber direction with the weathering test, revealing cleavage-induced crystallization of the PLA samples. Consequently, the hydrolysis degradation induced by the weathering test substantially accelerates predominant degradation of the amorphous structure of the PLA and such variation of the molecular structure, in turn, brings less ductility to the PLA fiber.
Hideyuki Shinzawa, Masakazu Nishida, Toshiyuki Tanaka, and Wataru Kanematsu, "Accelerated Weathering-Induced Degradation of Poly(Lactic Acid) Fiber Studied by Near-Infrared (NIR) Hyperspectral Imaging," Appl. Spectrosc. 66, 470-474 (2012)