Mechanisms of ozone aging in plastics and rubber

Ozone aging refers to the degradation and deterioration of plastics and rubber materials caused by exposure to ozone gas. Ozone, a highly reactive form of oxygen, can interact with the polymer chains in these materials, leading to various degradation mechanisms. The mechanisms of ozone aging in plastics and rubber can be described as follows:

1. Ozone Attack:

   Ozone molecules can penetrate the polymer matrix and react with unsaturated polymer chains. The double bonds present in the polymer structure, such as those in natural rubber or certain synthetic rubbers, are particularly susceptible to ozone attack. Ozone molecules break the double bonds, resulting in the formation of ozonides or other reactive intermediates.

1. Ozonolysis:

   Ozonolysis is the process in which ozone molecules react with the unsaturated bonds of the polymer, leading to the formation of oxygenated functional groups. These groups can weaken the polymer structure and affect its mechanical properties. Ozonolysis can result in chain scission, cross-linking, or the formation of oxygen-containing groups, such as carbonyl, carboxyl, or hydroxyl groups.

1. Chain Scission:

   Ozone can cause chain scission, breaking the polymer chains and reducing the molecular weight of the material. This degradation mechanism weakens the material and can lead to loss of mechanical strength, flexibility, and elongation properties.

1. Cross-Linking:

   Ozone can also induce cross-linking reactions in certain polymers. The reaction between ozone and unsaturated bonds can form new covalent bonds, resulting in the formation of a three-dimensional network structure. Cross-linking can lead to increased hardness, stiffness, and brittleness of the material.

1. Oxygen Transfer:

   Ozone can facilitate the transfer of oxygen from the ozone atmosphere to the polymer surface. Oxygen molecules can react with the polymer chains, leading to oxidative degradation. This oxidative degradation can further accelerate the deterioration of the material, causing surface cracking, color fading, and loss of physical properties.

It's important to note that the susceptibility of different plastics and rubber materials to ozone aging can vary. Factors such as polymer composition, structure, and the presence of additives or stabilizers can influence the extent and rate of ozone degradation. To mitigate ozone aging, suitable additives or protective coatings can be used to enhance the material's resistance to ozone exposure.