Processing of polymer nanocomposites

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University Belfast


Polymers, because of their properties and ease of processing into complex shapes are among the most important materials available to us today and the polymer industry makes a major contribution to the UK economy (18 billion per year). An exciting new family of materials are polymer nanocomposites (NCs), in which particles with nanoscale dimensions are dispersed in the polymer. The benefits of NCs derive primarily from the exceptionally large amounts of particle surface area that can be achieved for a small addition of particles (e.g. 5% by weight). Thus they offer dramatic improvement in material performance with significant increases in mechanical and gas barrier properties. The user of such a material therefore gets a more effective product (or one containing less material for the same effectiveness). It is well recognised that the nanoparticle-polymer interface/chemistry is a critical parameter in determining the degree of dispersion of particles in a nanocomposite and that the interfacial properties have a significant influence on nanocomposite performance. In recent times, however it has become apparent that the processing route by which the nanoparticle-polymer mixture is formed into a final product is an equally important aspect of NC manufacture and this is the area on which we will focus in this proposal.The principal aim of the proposed project is therefore to achieve a fundamental understanding of the interactions between material formulation, processing and properties of polymer nanocomposites and to apply this to the development of proof of concept applications which provide generic processing information for industry and academia alike. The work will include statistically designed experimental studies using pilot scale polymer processing equipment and validation trials on industrial scale equipment. Parameters to be studied include extruder shear and temperature profiles, screw design, additives such as anti-oxidant, post extrusion deformation such as biaxial extension and cooling rates. We will characterise the materials in terms of structure, mechanical, thermal and barrier performance in order to link process to structure and structure to performance.We will utilise the combined processing, characterisation and analytical skills and facilities existing in Queen's University Belfast (QUB) and the University of Bradford (UoB), partners who have worked together successfully on large collaborative projects, in the past and currently, and have an excellent national and international track record in polymer processing research.


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Description This research showed clearly the influence of processing route on the structuring and properties of polymer-clay nanocomposites. This has significant implications for the industrial processing of polymer nanocomposites as different processes give quite different levels of exfoliation and dispersion and thus properties. The common use, in the published literature, of compression moulded plaques to illustrate the structure/properties of polymer nanocomposites means that the real potential of many polymer nanocomposite systems is not well understood or exploited.
Exploitation Route Industrial processors may use these research findings for guidance in the processing of polymer nanocomposites by melt processing
Sectors Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Knowledge of processing of polymer nanocomposites has been applied to the manufacture new high performance filaments and powders for additive manufacturing processes. To date one of these materials has been characterised and has been shown to exhibit superior laser energy absorption behaviour. The material will now be trialled in a laser sintering process to assess reductions in processing time.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description NPRP
Amount $902,035 (USD)
Organisation Qatar Foundation 
Department Qatar National Research Fund
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Qatar
Start 11/2012 
Description European Polymer Federation Summer School 15-20 May 2011, Lake Garda, Italy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a 1 week summer school for Postgraduate/postdoctoral/early career researchers. Experts in various areas asked to address this audience. My subject was processing of polymer nanocomposites.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011