GRAPHITIC POLYMER NANOCOMPOSITES:WEAR PERFORMANCE AND WEAR DEBRIS ANALYSIS
With the addition of appropriate nanofillers, nanocomposites have been shown to be an effective avenue to achieve a multitude of enhanced properties, even extending to multi-functionalities not normally considered possible for conventional polymer materials. However, the structure and properties of polymeric nanocomposites can be influenced by some environmental factors in practical use, such as wear and temperature, due to the nature of viscoelasticity of polymer matrix. The large interfacial areas exist between matrix and nanofillers are also susceptible to the wear/temperature-related changes. In this work, I was devoted to developing high wear and/or thermal performance graphitic nanofiller reinforced high density polyethylene (HDPE) composites. Two critical issues, including appropriate filler-matrix interactions and proper dispersion of the nano-reinforcement, were addressed through the effective nanofiller surface modification. Wear, thermal and mechanical properties of the resultant nanocomposites were systematically investigated. Meanwhile, the wear debris generated on the sliding surface of composite materials was analyzed morphologically and quantitatively. In particular, the research regarding the possibility of determining the effects of wear and thermal processes on the nanocomposites by detecting dielectric signals over the lifetime of polymeric materials was conducted. Correlations that exist between effects of wear or thermal processes and dielectric properties of the nanocomposites were then explored. Based on the studies of HDPE nanocomposites, high quality ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) nanocomposite reinforced by graphitic nanofillers was finally extended in this thesis. UHMWPE is an extremely viscous polymer and thus cannot be processed conventionally, typically resulting in dispersion issues far worse than that of other composite systems. The research presented aims at solving the issue by using ultrasonication-assisted melt-blending processing approach in addition to applying the surface treatment to the graphitic nanofillers. Under optimized conditions, dispersion, wear, and mechanical properties of UHMWPE composites can be substantially improved.