Nano world
There's plenty of room at the bottom.
Richard Feynman

nanocompositech review

Clay/Polymer Nanocomposites: Brief Outline

SUMMARY:nanocomposite and nanomaterial as nanotechnology example

In the field of nanotechnology, the synthesis and applications of polymer nanocomposites are an important and strategical field of nanomaterial science.

Polymer nanocomposites respresent a new class of material alternative to conventional filled polymers.
In this new class of material, nanosized inorganic filler (at least one dimension) are dispersed in polymer matrix offering tremendous improvement in performance properties of the polymer.

Typically smectite-type clays are used as fillers. Montmorillonite and hectorite layered structure are dispersed in polymer matrix.
According with the bonding scenariuos between polymer chain and silicate layer, new material shows excellent mechanical properties compared to neat polymer: superior mechanical characteristics higher tensile strength (40% increase), heat resistance and chemical resistance.

It´s worthwhile to note these results are achieved with only 0.1-10 %vol. addition clay nanosized.
It´s clear that polymer/clay nanocomposites are a typical example of nanotechnology: embedding nanoclay structure in polymer matrix we obtain a new class of materials.
Unlike to other nanotechnologies this material has an immediately applications and commercial development.

Polymer nanocomposites history...

The true start of polymer nanocomposites history is in 1990 when Toyota first used clay/nylon-6 nanocomposites for Toyata car in order to produce timing belt covers.

After that other automotive application was implemented:
-Mitsubishi´s GDI cover clay/nylon-6 nanocomposites engines;
-General Motors clay/polyolefin nanocomposites step assistant GMC Safari and Chevrolet Astro vans.

The potential applications go beyond automotive industry. One of the most promising is drink packaging application considering increased barrier properties of polymer clay nanocomposites. It´s easy understand the commercial and technical importance of this field.
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FABRICATION TECHNIQUES: polymer clay nanocomposites

In order to disperse clay layers into polymer matrix it´s very important considering polymer-clay compatibility.
This means to provide organophilic character to the clay by a pretreatment in order to successful formation of polymer-clay nanocomposite.

In the case of hydrophilic polymers and silicate layers pretreatment is not necessary. Most polymers are hydrophobic and are not compatible with hydrophilic clays.
Pretreatment involved only clays in order to obtain organic compatibility. Organophilic clay can be formed from normally hydrophilic clay by means amino acids, organic ammonium salts, or tetra organic phosphonium solution.

Well established methods are:
-Solution induced intercalation;
-In situ polimerization;
-Melt processing;

Solution induced intercalation method consists to solubilize polymer in an organic solvent, then the clay is dispersed in the obtained solution and subsequently either the solvent is evaporated or the polymer precipitated. This approach leads to poor clay dispersion, besides other problem like: high costs of solvents required, large amount of solvent needs to be used to achieve appreciable filler dispersion, technical phase separation problem, health and safety problem. Solvent route technique is used in the case of water-soluble polymers for clear reasons.

In situ polimerization consists to disperse clay layers into matrix by polimerization, mixing the silicate layers with the monomer, in conjunction with the polymerization initiator and/or the catalyst.

In the third technique the silicates layers are directly dispersed into the polymers during the melt. In order to use this method, the silicates should need to be previously surface treated through the organo-modification like previously mentioned.
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When one talking about nanocomposites, underlining extraordinary improvements of material properties.
In reality, mechanical properties in the best clay/polymer nanocomposites are much lower than conventional fiber reinforced composites.
Only in the low filler range 4% nanocomposites show better mechanical performance.
To obtain higher performance we have to add more filler, but, great physical-technological problem occurs. Increasing reinforcing load increase the surface area of the silicate-filler, leading to insufficient polymer molecules to wet enormous clay surface.
The main advantage of nanosized filler become high hurdle to overcome.

Several difficulties facing clay-polymer nanotechnology especially fabrication problem:
-Difficulty in application to thermosetting polymers;
-Thermally instability of organoclay.

Clearly, the major difficulties of the development of clay/polymer nanocomposites are caused to the poor understanding the primary mechanisms of nano-world.

Considering significant progress in the development of clay-polymer nanocomposites has been made over the past last decade probably is not so long the way from the end of tunnel!!

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