Block Copolymer and Nanosilica-Modified Epoxy Nanocomposites

Vincent Pang, Zachary J. Thompson, Guy D. Joly, Lorraine F. Francis, Frank S. Bates

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6 Scopus citations


The effects of nanoscale silica particle additives on the tensile properties of neat and poly(ethylene-alt-propylene)-b-poly(ethylene oxide) block copolymer (BCP)-modified epoxies were evaluated. Nanosilica and BCP modifiers were dispersed both individually and together in epoxy formulations. The nanosilica formed a stable dispersion, and BCP modifiers formed well-dispersed spherical micelle nanostructures in the matrix. When both additives were used, BCP micelles were observed to adsorb on nanosilica surfaces, resulting in limited aggregation of nanosilica particles. Tensile tests on bulk specimens showed that the addition of nanosilica to both neat and BCP-modified epoxy formulations increased the modulus of the composites. Compact tension tests also revealed increases in the critical stress intensity factor, KIc, and critical strain energy release rate, GIc, in both the block copolymer and nanosilica-modified epoxies. Combining both additives in the epoxy enhanced toughness beyond that obtained with the individually modified formulations. Increasing nanosilica loading up to 25 wt % produced a monotonic increase in the modulus and GIc. The nanocomposite with 25 wt % nanosilica reached an optimal level of toughness at low BCP concentrations (ca. 4 wt %). Scanning electron micrographs obtained from fracture surfaces revealed topological features indicative of micelle cavitation and nanosilica debonding, toughening mechanisms that operate in concert.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4156-4167
Number of pages12
JournalACS Applied Polymer Materials
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 14 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded and supported by the 3M Company. V.P. acknowledges support from the 3M Science and Technology Fellowship. Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program. Small-angle X-ray scattering was performed at Argonne National Laboratory’s 5-ID-D DND-CAT beamline, which is supported through Northwestern University, The Dow Chemical Company and DuPont de Nemours, Inc., the State of Illinois through the Department of Commerce and the Board of Education (HECA), the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Research, and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Materials Research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society.


  • block copolymers
  • compact tension
  • dispersion
  • epoxy
  • fracture toughness
  • silica

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