Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Chemistry and Biochemistry


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Brian Benicewicz


This dissertation presents the design, synthesis, and characterization of polymer nanocomposite interfaces and the property enhancement from this interface design. Through the use of reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization for the grafting of polymer chains to silica nanoparticles, the surface of silica nanoparticles can be manipulated to tune the properties of nanocomposites by controlling the interface between the particles and the polymer matrix.

In the first part of this work, compatibility of 15 nm silica nanoparticles grafted with different alkyl methacrylates with linear low density polyethylene was investigated. SI-RAFT polymerization of hexyl, lauryl, and stearyl methacrylate on silica NPs was studied in detail and revealed living character for all these polymerizations. Composites of linear low density polyethylene filled with PHMA, PLMA, and PSMA-g-SiO2 NPs were prepared and analyzed to find the effects of side chain length on the dispersibility of particles throughout the matrix. PSMA brushes were the most “olefin-like” of the series and thus showed the highest compatibility with polyethylene. The effects of PSMA brush molecular weight and chain density on the dispersion of silica particles were investigated. Multiple characterizations such as DSC, WAXS, and SAXS were applied to study the interaction between PSMA-g-SiO2 NPs and the polyethylene matrix.

In the next part, the compatibility of PSMA-g-SiO2 NPs with different molecular variables with isotactic polypropylene was investigated. Anthracene was used as a conjugated ligand to introduce to the surface of PSMA-g-SiO2 NPs to develop bimodal architecture on nanoparticles and use them in polypropylene dielectric nanocomposites. The dispersion of particles was investigated and showed that for both monomodal and bimodal particles where PSMA chains are medium density and relatively high molecular weight, they maintain an acceptable level of dispersion throughout of the matrix. Furthermore, the effects of anthracene surface modification and also level of dispersion towards improving the dielectric breakdown strength under AC and DC conditions were studied.

Finally, the RAFT polymerizations of isoprene in solution and, for the first time, on the surface of silica particles using a high temperature stable trithiocarbonate RAFT agent were studied. The effects of different temperatures, initiators, and monomer feed ratios on the kinetics of the SI-RAFT polymerization were also investigated. Kinetic studies revealed that the rate of SI-RAFT polymerization increased with an increase in the density of grafted RAFT agent. Well-defined polyisoprene-grafted silica NPs (PIP-g-SiO2 NPs) were synthesized and mixed with a polyisoprene matrix to determine the compatibility and dispersion of these particles with the matrix. Hydrogenation of PIP-g-SiO2 NPs were performed using p-toluenesulfonyl hydrazide at high temperature to obtain hydrogenated (HPIP)-g-SiO2 NPs. A bimodal octadecylsilane (C18)-HPIP-g-SiO2 NPs sample was synthesized and mixed with isotactic PP matrix analyzed for the compatibility with polypropylene.

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Chemistry Commons