Critical aspects related to processing of carbon nanotube/unsaturated thermoset polyester nanocomposites
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Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have outstanding mechanical, thermal and electrical properties. As a result, particular interest has been recently given in exploiting these properties by incorporating carbon nanotubes into some form of matrix. Although unsaturated polyesters with styrene have widespread use in the industrial applications, surprisingly there is no study in the literature about CNT/thermoset polyester nanocomposite systems. In the present paper, we underline some important issues and limitations during the processing of unsaturated polyester resins with different types of carbon nanotubes. In that manner, 3-roll mill and sonication techniques were comparatively evaluated to process nanocomposites made of CNTs with and without amine (NH2) functional groups and polyesters. It was found that styrene evaporation from the polyester resin system was a critical issue for nanocomposite processing. Rheological behaviour of the suspensions containing CNTs and tensile strengths of their resulting nanocomposites were characterized. CNT/polyester suspensions exhibited a shear thinning behaviour, while polyester resin blends act as a Newtonian fluid. It was also found that nanotubes with amine functional groups have better tensile strength, as compared to those with untreated CNTs. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was also employed to reveal the degree of dispersion of CNTs in the matrix.