Investigation of the effect of chitin nanowhiskers distribution on structural and physical properties of high impact polypropylene/chitin nanocomposites

Nel, Alicia (2014-12)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Polymer composites have been gaining more importance in our daily lives because of the favorable properties that can be provided by these types of material. A polymer composite consists of improved properties when compared to the individual polymers that it is compiled of. The reason that composites are better than the individual polymers is mainly because composites are a combination of all the bene cial properties from the individual materials that was used to make the polymer composite. High impact polypropylene (HiPP) is a complex copolymer that was developed to overcome the restrictions of polypropylene (PP). Although PP have excellent properties at lower temperatures, it loses these advantages at elevated temperatures. High impact polypropylene has a much better impact strength and is processable at high temperatures. High impact polypropylene has been studied in depth for its applications and its superior properties such as an improved impact strength. The tensile properties, after the incorporation of a nano ller, have however not been investigated to our knowledge. Nano llers have reinforcing abilities due to the nano-scale diameters. Particles that have sizes on a nanometer range are mostly devoid of defects. Nano llers that are biopolymers have additional advantages such that can consist of antimicrobial abilities, renewability, biocompatibility and biodegradability. Composites reinforced with chitin nanowhiskers (chnw) have shown to have valuable applications in the latest medical, industrial and environmental developments. Di erent loadings of chnw were incorporated into a HiPP matrix in order to investigate the e ects that this nano ller will have on the tensile properties of HiPP. There were two challenges that required attention during the incorporation of chnw into HiPP. The rst major challenge was the poor interaction that exist between chnw and HiPP due to the hydrophobic nature of the HiPP matrix and the hydrophilic nature of chnw. The second problem was the agglomeration that can occur because of the hydrogen bonding between the chnw that is caused by the structure of the chnw chains. In order to gain the best dispersion of chnw within the HiPP matrix it was necessary to use compatibilizers and di erent methods of incorporation. The two types of compatibilizers that were chosen to improve the compatibility between the HiPP matrix and chnw were polypropylenegraft- maleic anhydride (PPgMA) and poly(ethylene-co-vinyl alcohol)(EVOH). Injection molding is typically used to process HiPP and was chosen as one of the methods for incorporating chnw into the HiPP matrix. A second method of incorporation was used speci cally for the nancomposites containing EVOH known as electrospinning combined with meltpressing. Tensile testing, DSC, TGA and FTIR were used to investigate the changes in the mechanical and thermal properties of the nanocomposites. SEM and TEM were employed to investigate the morphology of the electrospun ber mats and to characterize the chnw. FTIR as well as TGA were used to characterize the chitin nanowhiskers and to identify the individual components within the nanocomposites after incorporation took place. The incorporation of chnw along with the compatibilizer did show improvement in some mechanical properties of the polymer matrix. However, the in uence that each type of compatiblizer had on this e ect varied depending on the content of the chnw and compatibilizer with regards to the polymer matrix.

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