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Particle spatial dispersion is a crucial characteristic of polymer composite materials and this property is recognized as especially important in nanocomposite materials due to the general tendency of nanoparticles to aggregate under processing conditions. We introduce dispersion metrics along with a specified dispersion scale over which material homogeneity is measured and consider how the dispersion metrics correlate quantitatively with the variation of basic nanocomposite properties. We then address the general problem of quantifying nanoparticle spatial dispersion in model nanocomposites of single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) dispersed in poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) at a fixed SWNT concentration of 0.5 % using a 'coagulation' fabrication method. Two methods are utilized to measure dispersion, UV-Vis spectroscopy and optical confocal microscopy. Quantitative spatial dispersion levels were obtained through image analysis to obtain a 'relative dispersion index' (RDI) representing the uniformity of the dispersion of SWNTs in the samples and through absorbance. We find that the storage modulus, electrical conductivity, and flammability containing the same amount of SWNTs, the relationships between the quantified dispersion levels and physical properties show about four orders of magnitude variation in storage modulus, almost eight orders of magnitude variation in electric conductivity, and about 70 % reduction in peak mass loss rate at the highest dispersion level used in this study. The observation of such a profound effect of SWNT dispersion indicates the need for objective dispersion metrics for correlating and understanding how the properties of nanocomposites are determined by the concentration, shape and size of the nanotubes.
particle dispersion metric, relative dispersion index, nanocomposite, carbon nanotubes
Date Posted: 23 October 2007
This document has been peer reviewed.