SYNTHESIS AND CHARACTERIZATION OF LOW FLAMMABILITY POLYMER/LAYERED SILICATE NANOCOMPOSITES
Briber, Robert M.
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There has been significant interest in the applications of polymer nanocomposites in a variety of areas. Polymer/layered silicate nanocomposites have been of interest because of relatively low raw material cost and improved materials properties such as higher Young's modulus, higher thermal deformation temperature, lower small molecule permeability, lower density (compared to metals and traditional glass fiber reinforced composites) as well as low flammability. The relationships between the flammability and the dispersion of the layered silicate platelets inside the polymer matrix is just being established. The complete set of factors that affect the flammability of polymer/layered nanocomposites are not fully identified. In this thesis polymer/layered silicate nanocomposites with different degrees of platelet dispersion were synthesized. The structure of the nanocomposites was characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The flammability of these nanocomposites was characterized by TGA, cone calorimetry and gasification. By coupling the structural and flammability data it has been concluded that forming a nanometer scale dispersed structure significantly improves the flammability but the details of the degree of dispersion are not critical. The improvement in the flammability arises from the formation of a residue or char layer at the surface of the nanocomposite. This residue layer acts as a radiation shield and as a physical barrier preventing the polymer degradation products from escaping and acting as fuel. It is observed that the stability of the residue layer formed during combustion has major impact on the flammability. This thesis also describes work to improve the flammability of the polymer/layered silicate nanocomposites by enhancing char/residue formation in order to improve the residue layer stability.