A rheo-optical characterization technique based on the combination of near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy and mechanical analysis was applied to the nanocomposite consisting of hydroxyl-functionalized polypropylene (PPOH) and mesoporous silica (MPS) to probe the deformation behavior. Substantial levels of spectral changes of NIR spectral features were captured when the polymer samples underwent tensile deformation. Sets of spectra were subjected to projection treatment to remove the effect of baseline fluctuations and thickness change inevitably caused by the tensile deformation of the sample. Then, two-trace two-dimensional (2T2D) correlation spectroscopy was applied to the pretreated spectra to elucidate spectroscopic signature associated with the difference between the initial and deformed samples. An asynchronous correlation peak appears between the bands at 1720 and 1700 nm respectively reflecting the contributions of predominantly amorphous and crystalline component of the PPOH, indicating the predominant variation of amorphous structure followed by that of crystalline structure. In addition, the predominant spectral change related to the amorphous band becomes even more acute by including the MPS with large pores. It is hence likely that the larger pore size of the MPS confines the more amorphous structure, which, in turn, causes simultaneous reorientation of the polymer chains in the amorphous region during the elastic deformation. Consequently, the incorporation of the MPS selectively restricts the deformation of the amorphous structure which eventually provides the obvious increase in the mechanical property of the PPOH polymer.
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