Distinguished Professor Avraam Isayev received notice in November 2004 that he was awarded a $2.3 million research grant from NASA. The award is for a two-year period of time for his project “Continuous Process for Dispersion of Nanofibers and Nanotubes in Polymer Melts and Manufacture of Products from Prepared Nanocomposites.” An abstract of this work is as follows:
High performance polymer nanocomposites are greatly influenced by the degree of dispersion of nanofibers and nanotubes. Since in nanocomposites, chemically dissimilar components are combined at the nanometer scale they are too small to act as stress concentrators. Therefore, stronger interaction between the polymer and the nanofibers or nanotubes produces composites with significant enhancement of properties like strength, modulus, electrical conductivity, permeability, thermal resistance, and heat distortion temperature. In contrast to conventional composites, these effects take place at very low filler loadings (1-5 wt %) leading to a significant weight reduction of products made from nanocomposites in comparison with currently used metal alloys and high performance fiber-reinforced composites. However, all these desirable effects can be only achieved if the nanocomponents are well dispersed in polymeric matrices.
The specific goals and objectives of these studies are: (i) to develop a continuous process to prepare light weight polymer nanocomposites containing well dispersed nanofibers and nanotubes and exhibiting improved rheological, mechanical and electrical properties; (ii) to identify the processing conditions for a possible breakup of the existing bundles in nanofibers or nanotubes by studying obtained samples using X-ray diffraction technique, HRSEM, TEM and AFM microscopy; (iii) to manufacture prototypes and new products for the aerospace industry and NASA in cooperation with an industrial partner.
The proposed technology will be beneficial to make new materials based on composites incorporating high strength and high modulus nanofibers and nanotubes into light weight high temperature and high performance polymeric materials, such as various polyimides, polyetheretherketones and thermotropic liquid crystalline polymers. This will allow us to obtain new materials with the increased strength-to-mass ratio and improved electrical conductivity. These high specific strength materials will reduce structural mass that will have impact in reducing launch costs for the future NASA exploration systems. In addition, these materials are suitable for the EMI shielding of electronic components working in space environment.
This project is a joint effort between The University of Akron, NASA Langley Research Center, and A. Schulman, Inc.