The interaction of nano-composite particles with a polyester resin and the effect on mechanical properties
The effect of various organically modified silica (ormosil) nano-particle additions on the mechanical properties of a polyester resin has been investigated. For materials produced on such a fine scale, surface properties are known to dominate the manner in which they behave. This thesis presents results from two complementary areas of study: surface analysis and mechanical testing. The surface properties of the nano-particles and the interactions of the nano-particles with a polyester and adsorbed water have been investigated. These analyses have led to the development of a model which shows that the small organic groups grafted to the silica surface (methyl, ethyl and vinyl) are able to pack comparatively densely at the surface, effectively forming a continuous monolayer. This layer is sufficiently thick to prevent interaction of retained silanol groups with the polyester resin. When the silica is modified with phenyl functionality, however, the larger size leads to a more dispersed organic coverage that cannot be considered as a complete monolayer. Hence this layer reduces, but will not completely prevent interaction of the matrix with retained silanols of the silica. The particles have been dispersed in a polyester resin successfully. The dispersion process is an important step in producing viable nano-composites. Mechanical testing of such nano-composites has found a significant improvement in the toughness properties of the phenyl ormosil modified polyester, compared with the unmodified resin, whilst the other modified polyesters show smaller improvements. When considered with the surface analysis investigation, it is argued that the improvement is a result of a reduction of the strength of the interface (with reference to a commercial nano-silica) between the particles and the matrix. The phenyl ormosil is more strongly bonded than the other ormosils. Whilst these other ormosils are able to contribute to toughness through a crack pinning mechanism, the phenyl ormosil absorbs energy through debonding and promotes plastic deformation in the matrix, around and between particles, mechanisms which lead to a greater toughness enhancement.