Polymer-organoclay nanocomposites by melt processing
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Polymer-layered silicate nanocomposites based on a variety of polymer matrices and several organoclays were prepared by melt processing. A detailed characterization of the thermal degradation of several commercial and experimental organoclays often used to form polymer nanocomposites was reported. The surfactant type, loading, and purification level of organoclay significantly affect their thermal stability; however, broadly speaking, the results suggest that these differences in thermal stability do not appear to have much effect on the morphology and properties of the nanocomposites formed from them. It seems that the thermal stability of organoclays is not the key factor in organoclay exfoliation in melt processed polymer nanocomposites, since the exfoliation/dispersion process may have been completed on a time scale before the degradation of surfactant progresses to a detrimental level. Polymer nanocomposites have been made from a variety of polymers; however, few matrices have demonstrated the ability to readily exfoliate the organoclay as well as nylon 6, especially for highly hydrophobic materials like polyolefins. Hence, a significant part of this research work was devoted to explore various routes to improve polyolefinorganoclay interactions, and thus, organoclay exfoliation in these systems. Amine grafted polypropylenes and a conventionally used maleic anhydride grafted polypropylene were used as compatibilizers for polypropylene based nanocomposites to improve the organoclay exfoliation. A series of ethylene vinyl acetate copolymers, the polarity of which can be adjusted by varying their vinyl acetate contents, based nanocomposites were prepared as the model system to address the relationship between the polarity of the polymers and their preferences over various organoclay structures. Attempts were made to explore the effect of degree of neutralization of acid groups in ionomers on the morphology and properties of nanocomposites, and it seems that the ionic units on the polymer chain provide a more favorable interaction between the polymer matrix and the organoclay compared to acid units and, thus, lead to better dispersion of the clay particles. It was determined that surfactants whose structure lead to more shielding of the silicate surface result in improved levels of exfoliation in all the above mentioned unmodified and modified polyolefin based nanocomposites.