Loughborough University
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Polypropylene-clay nanocomposites: effects of incorporating short chain amide molecules on rheological and mechanical properties

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posted on 2013-01-31, 12:18 authored by Upul Nishantha Ratnayake
The influence of low molecular weight additives containing polar groups and modified polyolefin-based compatibilisers on polypropylene (PP)-clay nanocomposites (PPCN) has been studied, in terms of intercalation and degree of exfoliation achievable by melt state mixing processes. PPCN were prepared by melt mixing of two commercial pp homopolymers with organically modified clay (OMMT) in the presence of maleic anhydride grafted pp (PP-MA). X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis shows that the interlayer spacing of clay increases dramatically, whilst transmission electron microscopy (TEM) results show a significant improvement of clay dispersion in the PP matrix, when nanocomposites are prepared with commercial PP containing short chain organic additives with polar groups (amide-type slip and antistatic additives). Subsequent studies based upon customised PP formulations, with short chain amide molecules (AM), confirm the intercalation of this additive into clay galleries. The maximum interiayer spacing is achieved with low concentrations of this additive (0.5 wt. %). Contact angle measurements and low shear melt flow properties (MF!) further confirm the diffusion of this additive (AM) into the clay galleries rather than migrating away from the bulk of the PPCN. The interaction between the polar group (CONH2) of this additive and polar sites of the clay surface appears to be the driving force for the intercalation. Although this additive intercalates and allows the formation of an intercalated nanocomposite structure with non homogeneous dispersion of clay, an exfoliated PPCN structure is yet to be formed with this additive alone. A new preparation method for PPCN has therefore been developed by co-intercalation of AM and PP-MA. PPCN were prepared by this method with a significant reduction of overall PP-MA concentration in the nanocomposite structure, relative to conventional PPCN prepared with compatibiliser (PP-MA) only. XRD and TEM analysis showed that nanocomposite structures are formed with significantly improved clay dispersion, compared to PPCN prepared using the conventional method. Quantification of clay exfoliation, using image analysis software, showed that higher degrees of exfoliation can be achieved in PPCN from this new cointercalation method. Normalised melt flow index (n-MFI) data showed the relationship between low shear flow properties and clay structure and is an appropriate parameter to examine clay exfoliation and its interaction with pp in PPCN. Enhanced thennal stability of PPCN, in comparison to pure PP, further demonstrates the improved clay dispersion in nanocomposite structures prepared by the co-intercalation method. A possible mechanism for the co-intercalation of AM and PP-MA into clay galleries has been proposed, based upon hydrogen bonding between these additives and the silicate layers. Rheological characterisation of PPCN, using capillary rheometry experiments at high shear rates, shows a shear thinning, pseudoplastic behaviour similar to pure PP. However, a comparatively higher concentration of AM appears to reduce the shear viscosity of PPCN. Die swelling behaviour revealed a reduction in melt elasticity in PPCN melts in comparison to unmodified PP. Reduced die swell occurs as a result, together with a delay in the onset of melt fracture. Sheet extrusion was used to produce PPCN products with increasing clay loading levels that were evaluated for a range of mechanical properties. Significant enhancement of modulus in PPCN is achieved in comparison to pure PP whilst maintaining similar strength characteristics. However, impact resistance of extruded PPCN sheets is not improved in comparison to unmodified PP. Results have been interpreted with reference to the degree of exfoliation, additive content and differences in PP crystallinity.



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© Upul Nishantha Ratnayake

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A Doctoral thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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