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Cure kinetics of vapor grown carbon nanofiber (VGCNF) modified epoxy resin suspensions and fracture toughness of their resulting nanocomposites
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In this study, the cure kinetics of Cycom 977-20, an aerospace grade toughened epoxy resin, and its suspensions containing various amounts (1, 3 and 5 wt.%) of vapor grown carbon nanofibers (VGCNFs) with and without chemical treatment were monitored via dynamic and isothermal dynamic scanning calorimetry (DSC) measurements. For this purpose, VGCNFs were first oxidized in nitric acid and then functionalized with 3-glycidoxypropyltrimethoxy silane (GPTMS) coupling agent. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy was subsequently used to verify the chemical functional groups grafted onto the surfaces of VGCNFs. Sonication technique was conducted to facilitate proper dispersion of as-received, acid treated and silanized VGCNFs within epoxy resin. Dynamic DSC measurements showed that silanized VGCNF modified resin suspensions exhibited higher heat of cure compared to those with as-received VGCNFs. Experimentally obtained isothermal DSC data was then correlated with Kamal phenomenological model. Based on the model predictions, it was found that silanized VGCNFs maximized the cure reaction rates at the very initial stage of the reaction. Accordingly, an optimized curing cycle was applied to harden resin suspensions. Fracture testing was then carried out on the cured samples in order to relate the curing behavior of VGCNF modified resin suspensions to mechanical response of their resulting nanocomposites. With addition of 1 wt.% of silanized VGCNFs, the fracture toughness value of neat epoxy was found to be improved by 12%. SEM was further employed to examine the fracture surfaces of the samples.