Functionalized Synthetic Clays Designed for Polymer-Clay Nanocomposites


Thuy Truong Chastek, Andreas Stein, Christopher W. Macosko

Polymers Division (854); University of Minnesota


Polymer-clay nanocomposites have many advantageous properties such as their light weight, transparency, flame retardency, barrier properties, and low cost. Exfoliation of natural clays into commercially important non-polar polymers such as polystyrene (PS) and polypropylene (PP) melts has been limited due to the immiscibility of these polymers with highly polar clays. Current means of addressing this problem, such as treating clays with surfactants, has met with limited success.

            Motivated by the need for synthetic clays that can be dispersed and exfoliated in non-polar polymer melts without added compatibilizers, we synthesized lamellar silicates and aluminosilicates to act as clay analogs. The flexibility of the sol-gel syntheses allowed hexadecyl and isobutyl functional groups to be covalently attached to the surface of the clays. Incorporating a high content of octahedral aluminum also strengthened the clay layers. The strength and surface functionalities of the layered silicates improved exfoliation during melt blending with PS and PP. We studied the effects of clay layer composition (silicate and alumino-silicate), layer thickness, organic functional groups, aluminum coordination, and covalent linking of surfactants on the performance of the nanocomposites.

The lamellar morphology was determined from XRD and TEM. Organic functionalization was determined with solid state NMR and IR spectroscopy. The synthetic clays were mixed with various solvents to help predict their miscibility with PS and PP.  Composites were prepared with different molecular weight polymers, which subjected the clays to a wide range of shear stresses.  The clays were also pretreated by mixing in a master batch or dispersing in an organic solvent. The effects of PS and PP molecular weight, master batch, and solvent dispersion on the exfoliation of synthetic clays in PS are examined. Rheology and TEM were used to observe the quality of exfoliation and the final aspect ratio of the clay layers in the PS- or PP- nanocomposites.


Author: Thuy T. Chastek

Mentor: Steven Hudson

Division of Polymer

Room: A 219, Bldg  224

Mail Stop: 8542

Telephone: 4349

Fax: 4924


Xigma Xi member: No


Category: Materials