Composites of Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes With Polypropylene and Thermoplastic Olefin Blends Prepared by Melt Compounding

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Petrie, Kyle
Nanocomposites , Blends , Polypropylene , Carbon nanotubes
Composites of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) with polypropylene (PP) and thermoplastic olefins (TPOs) were prepared by melt compounding. Two non-covalent functionalization methods were employed to improve nanotube dispersion and the resulting composite properties are reported. The first functionalization approach involved partial coating of the surface of the nanotubes with a hyperbranched polyethylene (HBPE). MWCNT functionalization with HBPE was only moderately successful in breaking up the large aggregates that formed upon melt mixing with PP. In spite of the formation of large aggregates, the samples were conductive above a percolation threshold of 7.3 wt%. MWCNT functionalization did not disrupt the electrical conductivity of the nanotubes. The composite strength was improved with addition of nanotubes, but ductility was severely compromised because of the existence of aggregates. The second method involved PP matrix functionalization with aromatic moieties capable of π-π interaction with MWCNT sidewalls. Various microscopy techniques revealed the addition of only 25 wt% of PP-g-pyridine (Py) to the neat PP was capable of drastically reducing nanotube aggregate size and amount. Raman spectroscopy confirmed improved polymer/nanotube interaction with the PP-g-Py matrix. Electrical percolation threshold was obtained at a MWCNT loading of approximately 1.2 wt%. Electrical conductivity on the order of 10-2 S/m was achieved, suggesting possible use in semi-conducting applications. Composite strength was improved upon addition of MWCNTs. The matrix functionalization with Py resulted in a significant improvement in composite ductility when filled with MWCNTs in comparison to its maleic anhydride (MA) counterpart. Preliminary investigations suggest that the use of alternating current (AC) electric fields may be effective in aligning nanotubes in PP to reduce the filler loading required for electrical percolation. Composites containing MWCNT within PP/ethylene-octene copolymer (EOC) blends were prepared. Microscopy revealed that MWCNTs localized preferentially in the EOC phase. This was explained by the tendency of the system to minimize interfacial energy when the MWCNTs reside in the thermodynamically preferential phase. A kinetic approach, which involved pre-mixing the MWCNTs with PP and adding the EOC phase subsequently was attempted to monitor the migration of MWCNTs. MWCNTs began to migrate after two minutes of melt mixing with the EOC. The PP-g-Py matrix functionalization appears to slightly delay the migration. A reduction in electrical percolation threshold to 0.5 wt% MWCNTs was achieved with a co-continuous blend morphology, consisting of a 50/50 by weight ratio of PP and EOC.
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