The incorporation of nanoparticles into polymers is a designapproach that is used in all areas of materials science, says ChristophWeder of Case Western Reserve University, adding that in the past, the broadtechnological utilization of polymer nanocomposites has been stifled bya lack of effective methods to control nanoparticle dispersion inmaterials.
In their new approach, the team used a process in which thereinforcing nanoparticles are first assembled into a three-dimensionalnetwork through gelation of nanoparticle dispersion, essentiallyforming a template. This template can then be filled with any polymerof choice by exchanging the solvent with a polymer-containing solution.
"Through the use of this new technique, we have been able to takethe most incompatible components and show that they can be used to makecompatible materials," Weder said.
While the research primarily focused on cellulose "whiskers" as thechoice of nanoparticles since they offer useful mechanical propertiesand are readily obtained from renewable biosources such as wood andcotton, Capadona explained, the team also started to investigate anarray of different polymers and nanofibers, demonstrating that thetechnique has broad applicability.
Source: sciencedaily.comAdded: 7 February 2008