Multifunctional cyanate ester/MWNT nanocomposites : processing and characterization
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Tomorrow’s lightweight, high-performance composite systems will be made of structures built with materials that have unprecedented intrinsic properties for performing a wide range of functions, such as EMI shielding, thermal management, flame resistance, lightning strike protection, acoustic damping, and health-monitoring. Current structures require parasitic components, e.g., metal strips, copper wire meshes, strain gauges, and heat sinks to provide these functions. By eliminating parasitic components, future high-performance multifunctional systems can achieve the intended objectives, while maintaining optimum weight, reliability, cost, and fuel efficiency. With the continuing growth of polymer composites in industries, such as aerospace, automotive, and wind energy, research and development on lightweight, high-performance composites that possess extraordinary properties for future multifunctional systems has generated considerable interest and excitement. Recent advances in nanomaterial synthesis and functionalization have shown that tailored property combinations are possible with reduced parasitic content to achieve multifunctionality. Cyanate ester (CE), a class of high-performance thermosetting resins (high T [subscript g], >250°C), has received considerable attention due to its good mechanical properties, thermal stability, flammability properties, ease of process, and volatile-free curing process. Multiwall carbon nanotubes were selected due to their unique combination of excellent mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties. The principal objective of this work is to determine the extent to which several different processing techniques will affect the MWNT dispersion and corresponding nanocomposite properties, such as thermal, flammability, mechanical, and electrical properties. A processing-structure-property relationship, as well as performance of this class of carbon-based CE nanocomposite, will be established. Therefore, a major scientific contribution of this study will be the development and characterization of a novel, multifunctional CE nanocomposite. Different mixing instruments, such as high shear mixer, ultrasonicator, planetary centrifugal mixer, etc. were used to disperse the nanotubes in the cyanate ester resin matrix. Microstructural morphology characterizations by SEM, STEM, and TEM show that various degrees of dispersions of MWNTs were obtained by the different mixing techniques. An attempt to quantify the MWNT dispersion was made. Electrical resistivity of samples processed by both stand mixer and three-roll mill passes the ESD requirement; however, the MWNT percolation thresholds by the two techniques are different. Thermal analysis shows that the addition of the Fe³+ catalyst or the coupling agent lowers the glass transition temperature and degrades the mechanical properties (e.g., storage modulus, tangent of phase angle delta) of the CE resin. On the other hand, processing techniques only affect the mechanical properties of the resin. Thermal stability of CE is only slightly affected by different processing techniques, as well as the addition of MWNTs. Much more significantly, flammability characterization shows that the incorporation of either the Fe³+ catalyst or the coupling agent substantially increases the peak heat release rate (PHRR) relative to the neat CE resin value.