Characterization of safe nanostructured polymeric materials
Mitchell, G. (2013) Characterization of safe nanostructured polymeric materials. In: Silvestre, C. and Cimmino, S. (eds.) Ecosustainable polymer nanomaterials for food packaging. CRC Press. ISBN 9789004207370
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Official URL: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9789004207370
The addition of small quantities of nanoparticles to conventional and sustainable thermoplastics leads to property enhancements with considerable potential in many areas of applications including food packaging 1, lightweight composites and high performance materials 2. In the case of sustainable polymers 3, the addition of nanoparticles may well sufficiently enhance properties such that the portfolio of possible applications is greatly increased. Most engineered nanoparticles are highly stable and these exist as nanoparticles prior to compounding with the polymer resin. They remain as nanoparticles during the active use of the packaging material as well as in the subsequent waste and recycling streams. It is also possible to construct the nanoparticles within the polymer films during processing from organic compounds selected to present minimal or no potential health hazards 4. In both cases the characterisation of the resultant nanostructured polymers presents a number of challenges. Foremost amongst these are the coupled challenges of the nanoscale of the particles and the low fraction present in the polymer matrix. Very low fractions of nanoparticles are only effective if the dispersion of the particles is good. This continues to be an issue in the process engineering but of course bad dispersion is much easier to see than good dispersion. In this presentation we show the merits of a combined scattering (neutron and x-ray) and microscopy (SEM, TEM, AFM) approach. We explore this methodology using rod like, plate like and spheroidal particles including metallic particles, plate-like and rod-like clay dispersions and nanoscale particles based on carbon such as nanotubes and graphene flakes. We will draw on a range of material systems, many explored in partnership with other members of Napolynet. The value of adding nanoscale particles is that the scale matches the scale of the structure in the polymer matrix. Although this can lead to difficulties in separating the effects in scattering experiments, the result in morphological studies means that both the nanoparticles and the polymer morphology are revealed.