The structure and formation mechanism of a microporous phase-inversion poly(vinylidene fluoride) (PVDF) membrane exhibiting a relatively loosely packed agglomerate of semicrystalline globules are explored. The membrane has been prepared by the coagulation of a solution of PVDF in dimethylformamide by the action of 1-octanol, which is a soft nonsolvent. Experimental observations pertain to the globule surface, which is dominated by a grainy nanostructure; the globular interior, which exhibits a range of fine structures (e.g., twisted sheets and treelike branches); and the globule–globule connections, which exhibit a sheetlike or ropelike structure. On the basis of the observed structural details and phase diagram considerations, it is proposed that the membrane structure is the result of a unique combination of a polymer crystallization and a liquid–liquid phase-separation process, with end-result globular structural features of remarkable uniformity.
Journal of Polymer Science, Part B: Polymer Physics 42(5), pp.830-842