For the preparation of nanocomposites, we conducted environmentally benign foaming processing on polypropylene (PP) copolymer/clay nanocomposites via a batch process in an autoclave. We investigated the dispersion and the exfoliation of the nanoclay particles. Full exfoliation was achieved by the foamability of the matrix PP copolymer using supercritical carbon dioxide (sc CO2) and subcritical carbon dioxide (sub CO2). More and smaller cells were observed when the clay was blended as heterogeneous nuclei and sc CO2 was used. Small angle X-ray scattering showed that highly dispersed states (exfoliation) of the clay particles were obtained by the foaming process. Since the clay particles provided more nucleating sites for the foaming of the polymer, a well dispersed (or fully exfoliated) nanocomposite exhibited a higher cell density and a smaller cell size at the same clay particle concentration. Expansion of the adsorbed CO2 facilitated the exfoliation of the clay platelets; thus, sc CO2 at lower temperature was more efficient for uniform foaming-cell production. Fully dispersed clay platelets were, however, re-aggregated when subjected to a further melting processing. The reprocessed nanocomposites still had some exfoliated platelets as well as some aggregated intercalates. The dual role of the nanoclay particles as foaming nucleus and a crystallization nucleus was confirmed by cell growth observation and nonisothermal crystallization kinetics analysis. A low foaming temperature and a high saturation pressure were more favorable for obtaining a uniform foam. The PP copolymer was found to be foamed more easily than polypropylene. A small amount of other olefin moieties in the backbone of the polymer facilitated better foamability than the neat polypropylene.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry