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Polymer-layered silicate nanocomposites from polyamide-11 (PA-11) were prepared and the morphology and properties have been investigated in order to link the fundamental research field of polymer crystallization with the technical important field of composite materials. Semi-crystalline polymers are known to crystallize in different phases (e. g. monoclinic, hexagonal) forming chain-folded lamellar crystals. Depending on experimental conditions (e. g. temperature, pressure) the crystal size (lamellar thickness) affects the stability of these phases. The incorporation of layered silicates acting as hard walls into semi-crystalline polymers opens new possibilities to: i) study polymer crystallization in confined dimensions, and ii) provide materials from commodity or engineering polymers with enhanced properties. The effect of an external confinement introduced by highly anisotropic silicate layers of organically modified clay minerals on crystal growth and nanocomposite properties has been studied. The composites are prepared by in situ polycondensation of polyamides and/or blending via melt extrusion. The nanocomposites exhibit a homogeneous distribution of individual silicate layers at low clay contents. The lamellar thickening growth is reduced in polyamide crystallization due to the external constrained of the silicate layers in the host polymer. Furthermore these nanocomposites show a slightly enhanced thermal stability, tensile modulus and an increased elastic behavior over a broader temperature range. No distinct glass transition has been observed at highest clay contents.
In order to link the fundamental research field of polymer crystallization with the technical important field of composite materials polymer-layered silicate nanocomposites from polyethylene (PE) are prepared and their morphology and properties are investigated. The effect of an external confinement introduced by highly anisotropic silicate layers of organically modified clay minerals on crystal growth and nanocomposite properties has been studied. The prepared nanocomposites of organically modified clay minerals and PE exhibit not only a homogeneous distribution of individual silicate layers but also of tactoids. The isothermal crystallization rate of PE in the corresponding nanocomposite at 120 °C is increased in the composite material due to the action of the silicate layers. A significant effect on crystal phase has not been observed so far but from X-ray experiments, however the crystal size seems to be influenced. The thermal stability of the nanocomposites is significantly enhanced and the decomposition mechanism has been changed due to the presence of the layered silicates within the host polymer acting as a barrier for the diffusion of small molecules like oxygen. Due to the none permanent attachment of the polymer chains to the silicate surface the thermal-mechanical properties are only moderately enhanced at low temperature while the glass transition temperature remains unaffected.
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