• Polyethylene Terephthalate / clay nanocomposites. Compounding, fabrication and characterisation of the thermal, rheological, barrier and mechanical properties of Polyethylene Terephthalate / clay nanocomposites.

      Gough, Timothy D.; Coates, Philip D.; Al-Fouzan, Abdulrahman M. (University of BradfordSchool of Engineering, Design and Technology, 2011-12-16)
      Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is one of the most important polymers in use today for packaging due to its outstanding properties. The usage of PET has grown at the highest rate compared with other plastic packaging over the last 20 years, and it is anticipated that the increase in global demand will be around 6% in the 2010 ¿ 2015 period. The rheological behaviour, thermal properties, tensile modulus, permeability properties and degradation phenomena of PET/clay nanocomposites have been investigated in this project. An overall, important finding is that incorporation of nanoclays in PET gives rise to improvements in several key process and product parameters together ¿ processability/ reduced process energy, thermal properties, barrier properties and stiffness. The PET pellets have been compounded with carefully selected nanoclays (Somasif MAE, Somasif MTE and Cloisite 25A) via twin screw extrusion to produce PET/clay nanocomposites at various weight fractions of nanoclay (1, 3, 5, 20 wt.%). The nanoclays vary in the aspect ratio of the platelets, surfactant and/or gallery spacing so different effect are to be expected. The materials were carefully prepared prior to processing in terms of sufficient drying and re-crystallisation of the amorphous pellets as well as the use of dual motor feeders for feeding the materials to the extruder. The rheological properties of PET melts have been found to be enhanced by decreasing the viscosity of the PET i.e. increasing the ¿flowability¿ of the PET melt during the injection or/and extrusion processes. The apparent shear viscosity of PETNCs is show to be significantly lower than un-filled PET at high shear rates. The viscosity exhibits shear thinning behaviour which can be explained by two mechanisms which can occur simultaneously. The first mechanism proposed is that some polymer has entangled and few oriented molecular chain at rest and when applying high shear rates, the level of entanglements is reduced and the molecular chains tend to orient with the flow direction. The other mechanism is that the nanoparticles align with the flow direction at high shear rates. At low shear rate, the magnitudes of the shear viscosity are dependent on the nanoclay concentrations and processing shear rate. Increasing nanoclay concentration leads to increases in shear viscosity. The viscosity was observed to deviate from Newtonian behaviour and exhibited shear thinning at a 3 wt.% concentration. It is possible that the formation of aggregates of clay is responsible for an increase in shear viscosity. Reducing the shear viscosity has positive benefits for downstream manufacturers by reducing power consumption. It was observed that all ii three nanoclays used in this project act as nucleation agents for crystallisation by increasing the crystallisation temperature from the melt and decreasing the crystallisation temperature from the solid and increasing the crystallisation rate, while retaining the melt temperature and glass transition temperatures without significant change. This enhancement in the thermal properties leads to a decrease in the required cycle time for manufacturing processes thus potentially reducing operational costs and increasing production output. It was observed that the nanoclay significantly enhanced the barrier properties of the PET film by up to 50% this potentially allows new PET packaging applications for longer shelf lives or high gas pressures. PET final products require high stiffness whether for carbonated soft drinks or rough handling during distribution. The PET/Somasif nanocomposites exhibit an increase in the tensile modulus of PET nanocomposite films by up to 125% which can be attributed to many reasons including the good dispersion of these clays within the PET matrix as shown by TEM images as well as the good compatibility between the PET chains and the Somasif clays. The tensile test results for the PET/clay nanocomposites micro-moulded samples shows that the injection speed is crucial factor affecting the mechanical properties of polymer injection moulded products.
    • Processing melt blended polymer nanocomposites using a novel laboratory mini-mixer. Development of polymer nanocomposites in the melt phase using a novel mini-mixer.

      Benkreira, Hadj; Patel, Rajnikant; Coates, Philip D.; Khan, Atif H. (University of BradfordSchool of Engineering, Design and Technology, 2013-11-22)
      Research into the processing conditions and parameters of polymeric nanocomposites has always been challenging to scientists and engineers alike. Many have developed tools and procedures to allow materials to be exploited and their properties improved with the addition of nanofillers to achieve the desired end material for various applications. Initial trials are mostly conducted using conventional small scale experiments using specialised equipment within the laboratory that can replicate the larger industrial equipment. This is a logical approach as it could save time and costs as many nanocomposites are relatively expensive to produce. Experiments have previously been done using the likes of the Haake twin screw extruder to manufacture nanocomposites within the laboratory but this research project has used a novel minimixer specifically developed to replicate mixing like large twin screw extrusion machines. The minimixer uses a twin paddle system for high shear mixing in conjunction with a single screw thus theoretically allowing an infinitely long recirculation. It is this ability to mix intensely whilst allowing for as long as desired recirculation which enables the replication in this very small mixer (10-30g capacity) of the mixing conditions in a large twin screw extruder. An added feature of the minimixer is that it can undertake inline data analysis in real time. The main experiments were conducted using a comprehensive DOE approach with several different factors being used including the temperature, screw speed, residence time, clay and compatibiliser loading and two polymer MFI¿s. The materials used included PP, Cloisite 20A, Polybond 3200, PET, Somasif MTE, Polyurethane 80A and Single / Multi-walled Carbon nanotubes. Detailed experimental results highlighted that rheological analysis of the nanocomposite materials as an initial testing tool were accurate in determining the Elastic and Loss modulus values together with the Creep and Recovery, Viscosity and Phase Angle properties in the molten state. This approach was also used in an additional set of experiments whereby the temperature, speed, residence time and compatibiliser were kept constant but the clay loading was increased in 1% wt. increments. These results showed that the G¿ & G¿¿ values increased with clay loading. Another important finding was the bi-axial stretching step introduced after the processing stage of the nanocomposite materials which highlighted a further improvement in the modulus values using rheological testing. Other tests included using inline monitoring to look into both the viscosity and ultrasound measurements in real time of the molten polymer nanocomposite through a slit die attachment to the minimixer.
    • Tensile and fracture behaviour of isotropic and die-drawn polypropylene-clay nanocomposites. Compounding, processing, characterization and mechanical properties of isotropic and die-drawn polypropylene/clay/polypropylene maleic anhydride composites

      Sweeney, John; Coates, Philip D.; Caton-Rose, Philip D.; Al-Shehri, Abdulhadi S. (University of BradfordSchool of Engineering, Design and Technology, 2010)
      As a preliminary starting point for the present study, physical and mechanical properties of polypropylene nanocomposites (PPNCs) for samples received from Queen's University Belfast have been evaluated. Subsequently, polymer/clay nanocomposite material has been produced at Bradford. Mixing and processing routes have been explored, and mechanical properties for the different compounded samples have been studied. Clay intercalation structure has received particular attention to support the ultimate objective of optimising tensile and fracture behaviour of isotropic and die-drawn PPNCs. Solid-state molecular orientation has been introduced to PPNCs by the die-drawing process. Tensile stress-strain measurements with video-extensometry and tensile fracture of double edge-notched tensile specimens have been used to evaluate the Young¿s modulus at three different strain rates and the total work of fracture toughness at three different notch lengths. The polymer composite was analyzed by differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetric analysis, polarizing optical microscopy, wide angle x-ray diffraction, and transmission electron microscopy. 3% and 5% clay systems at various compatibilizer (PPMA) loadings were prepared by three different mixing routes for the isotropic sheets, produced by compression moulding, and tensile bars, produced by injection moulding process. Die-drawn oriented tensile bars were drawn to draw ratio of 2, 3 and 4. The results from the Queen's University Belfast samples showed a decrement in tensile strength at yield. This might be explained by poor bonding, which refers to poor dispersion. Voids that can be supported by intercalated PP/clay phases might be responsible for improvement of elongation at break. The use of PPMA and an intensive mixing regime with a two-step master batch process overcame the compatibility issue and achieved around 40% and 50% increase in modulus for 3% and 5% clay systems respectively. This improvement of the two systems was reduced after drawing to around 15% and 25% compared with drawn PP. The work of fracture is increased either by adding nanoclay or by drawing to low draw ratio, or both. At moderate and high draw ratios, PPNCs may undergo either an increase in the size of microvoids at low clay loading or coalescence of microvoids at high clay loading, eventually leading to an earlier failure than with neat PP. The adoption of PPMA loading using an appropriate mixing route and clay loading can create a balance between the PPMA stiffness effect and the degree of bonding between clay particles and isotropic or oriented polymer molecules. Spherulites size, d-spacing of silicate layers, and nanoparticles distribution of intercalated microtactoids with possible semi-exfoliated particles have been suggested to optimize the final PPNCs property.