Toughening mechanisms of nanoparticle-modified epoxy polymers

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An epoxy resin, cured with an anhydride, has been modified by the addition of silica nanoparticles. The particles were introduced via a sol-gel technique which gave a very well-dispersed phase of nanosilica particles which were about 20 nm in diameter. Atomic force and electron microscopies showed that the nanoparticles were well-dispersed throughout the epoxy matrix. The glass transition temperature was unchanged by the addition of the nanoparticles, but both the modulus and toughness were increased. The measured modulus was compared to theoretical models, and good agreement was found. The fracture energy increased from 100J/m2 for the unmodified epoxy polymer to 460J/m2 for the epoxy polymer with 13 vol% of nanosilica. The fracture surfaces were inspected using scanning electron and atomic force microscopies, and the results were compared to various toughening mechanisms proposed in the literature. The toughening mechanisms of crack pinning, crack deflection and immobilised polymer were discounted. The microscopy showed evidence of debonding of the nanoparticles and subsequent plastic void growth. A theoretical model of plastic void growth was used to confirm that this mechanism was indeed most likely to be responsible for the increased toughness that was observed due to the presence of the nanoparticles.

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Journal: TechConnect Briefs
Volume: 1, Nanotechnology 2008: Materials, Fabrication, Particles, and Characterization – Technical Proceedings of the 2008 NSTI Nanotechnology Conference and Trade Show, Volume 1
Published: June 1, 2008
Pages: 798 - 801
Industry sector: Advanced Materials & Manufacturing
Topic: Nanoparticle Synthesis & Applications
ISBN: 978-1-4200-8503-7