Synthesis and characterization of polystyrene-graphite nanocomposites via surface RAFT-mediated miniemulsion polymerization
Graphite oxide (GO) was prepared and immobilized with dodecyl isobutyric acid trithiocarbonate (DIBTC) reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) agent. The hydroxyl groups of GO were attached to the DIBTC RAFT agent through an esterification process. The resultant modified GO was used for the preparation of polystyrene (PS)/graphite nanocomposites in miniemulsion polymerization. The RAFT-grafted GO (GO-DIBTC) at various loadings was dispersed in styrene monomer, and the resultant mixtures were sonicated in the presence of a surfactant (sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate) and a hydrophobe (hexadecane) to form miniemulsions. The stable miniemulsions thus obtained were polymerized using azobisisobutyronitrile as the initiator to yield encapsulated PS-GO nanocomposites. The molar mass and polydispersity index of PS in the nanocomposites depended on the amount of RAFT-grafted GO in the system, in accordance with the features of the RAFT polymerization method. The PS-GO nanocomposites were of exfoliated morphology, as confirmed by X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy measurements. The thermal stability and mechanical properties of the PS-GO nanocomposites were better than those of the neat PS polymer. Furthermore, the mechanical properties were dependent on the modified GO content (i.e., the amount of RAFT-grafted GO). © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.