Carbon Based Nanofiller-Polymer Composites: Quantitative Dispersion Characterization, Processing, and Properties
Lively, Brooks Travis
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The dispersion, or individualization of nanofillers within a polymer matrix is one of the key challenges associated with polymer nanocomposites. It is highly common that during nanofiller production the nanofillers will clump, or agglomerate, forming relatively large bundles of the nano-material. In most cases, the ideal state for the nanofillers within the polymer matrix is complete dispersion and homogeneous distribution. Therefore, the goal of polymer nanocomposite manufacturing is to break up these nanofiller agglomerations and to disperse and distribute the fillers during processing. In practice, polymer nanocomposite manufacturing generally falls short of the ideal, and resultant polymer nanocomposite properties are far below their potential. Hence, there is much room for improvement in terms of processing, characterization, and property realization before polymer nanocomposites become a viable material for industry.In this work, we investigated new methods for the characterization and assessment of nanofiller dispersion within polymer nanocomposites. Only within the last 5 years have researchers attempted to directly investigate the nanocomposite dispersions with quantitative tools and the science is still in its infancy. Our approach intended to provide industry friendly techniques that will allow for dispersions characterization as well as quality assessment tools. Additionally, we employed these new tools for improving and understanding high performance nanocomposite property realization. Lastly we aimed to investigate new alternatives for an emerging popular process for high quality, high volume nanocomposite process. We studied the use of solution processing for the manufacturing of nanocomposite masterbatches, as well as applied our newly developed quantitative assessment process to investigate all facets of the 2-step masterbatch manufacturing process.