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Nat Mater. 2007 Apr;6(4):278-82. Epub 2007 Mar 18.

Model polymer nanocomposites provide an understanding of confinement effects in real nanocomposites.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-3120, USA.


Owing to the improvement of properties including conductivity, toughness and permeability, polymer nanocomposites are slated for applications ranging from membranes to fuel cells. The enhancement of polymer properties by the addition of inorganic nanoparticles is a complex function of interfacial interactions, interfacial area and the distribution of inter-nanofiller distances. The latter two factors depend on nanofiller dispersion, making it difficult to develop a fundamental understanding of their effects on nanocomposite properties. Here, we design model poly(methyl methacrylate)-silica and poly(2-vinyl pyridine)-silica nanocomposites consisting of polymer films confined between silica slides. We compare the dependence of the glass-transition temperature (Tg) and physical ageing on the interlayer distance in model nanocomposites with the dependence of silica nanoparticle content in real nanocomposites. We show that model nanocomposites provide a simple way to gain insight into the effect of interparticle spacing on Tg and to predict the approximate ageing response of real nanocomposites.

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