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EMERGING RESEARCH FRONTS - 2008

Timothy D. Fornes & Don Paul  talk with ScienceWatch.com and answer a few questions about this month's Emerging Research Front in the field of Materials Science.
Fornes Article: Effect of organoclay structure on nylon 6 nanocomposite morphology and properties
Authors: Fornes, TD;Yoon, PJ;Hunter, DL;Keskkula, H;Paul, DR
Journal: POLYMER, 43 (22): 5915-5933 OCT 2002
Addresses: Univ Texas, Dept Chem Engn, Texas Mat Inst, Austin, TX 78712 USA.
Univ Texas, Dept Chem Engn, Texas Mat Inst, Austin, TX 78712 USA.
So Clay Prod, Gonzales, TX 78629 USA.
(addresses may have been truncated.)

Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

The paper is highly cited for several possible reasons. One, it was one of the first of its kind. Two, we took a very organized yet comprehensive approach to understanding how the role of surfactant structure on the nanoclay affected the clay's dispersion in nylon 6. Third, the paper has also had broad implications both in academia and industry. Lastly, we tried to write this paper in a clear and concise manner so that it would be easy for readers to understand the results with a minimum of effort.

Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

PaulIt primarily deals with the synthesis of knowledge. Specifically, the chemical relationships between the nanofiller and the matrix needed to maximum dispersion and mechanical property enhancement were uncovered.

Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

It represents one of the first pieces of experimental work that describes how to tailor the chemistry of solid, nano-additives in order to get the maximum level of additive dispersion and property improvements in nylons.

How did you become involved in this research and were any particular problems encountered along the way?

Our initial involvement in the field of nanocomposites came through our curiosity and excitement about how nanometer-sized fillers could dramatically affect the properties of polymers with minimal filler concentrations.

Although proof-of-concept studies had been conducted at the time, few, if any, reports were available that described the key relationships between nanofiller structure and nanocomposite properties, especially in thermoplastic matrices. It was our intent, as with this publication, to gain a thorough understanding of the factors that govern nanoclay dispersion and subsequent property enhancements seen in polyamides, like nylon 6.

There were no major problems encountered during the course of the work and we were very fortunate to have had a good working relationship with Southern Clay Products, Inc. (SCP), one of the world's leading suppliers of commercial nanoclay materials. Our ability to work with SCP in order to design and evaluate experimental nanoclay made for an effective and efficient approach.

In a related vein, one of the most challenging aspects of this work was its experimental design and execution. Given the larger number of clay chemistries desired to be examined and the corresponding nanocomposites to be characterized, we had to work hard to gain a maximum amount of information within a relatively short period of time.

Where do you foresee your research leading in the future?

I foresee building on the knowledge gained in this and related work and applying this knowledge in order to create novel, commercially relevant nanocomposites and applications thereof.

Timothy D. Fornes, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
Chemical R&D - Research Team Leader
Lord Corporation
Cary, NC, USA

Donald R. Paul, Ph.D.
Ernest Cockrell, Sr. Chair in Engineering
Director
Department of Chemical Engineering
Texas Materials Institute
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX, USA
Web

Keywords: organoclay structure, nylon 6 nanocomposite morphology, surfactant structure, nanoclay, nano-additives, additive dispersion, nanofiller structure, nanocomposite properties, thermoplastic matrices



2008 : April 2008 : Timothy D. Fornes & Don Paul