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Electrical and mechanical properties of expanded graphite-reinforced high-density polyethylene



High-density polyethylene (HDPE) was reinforced with expanded and untreated graphite in a melt-compounding process. Viscosity increased upon addition of graphite phase, with the expanded graphite (EG) showing more dramatic rise than the untreated graphite (UG) in viscosity. The increase in viscosity was attributed to the increased surface-to-volume ratio for the EG filler after acid treatment. Electrical conductivity also increased from that pertaining to an insulator to one characteristic of a semiconductor. The EG system showed a lower percolation threshold for transition in conductivity compared to that in the UG system. DSC results indicated that the fillers acted as a nucleating agent in inducing the crystallization of HDPE in the composites. However, the overall degree of crystallinity and melting temperature of HDPE decreased with the addition of EG and UG. Mechanical properties improved as a function of filler content but the overall enhancement was not impressive. It was conjectured that the filler–matrix interface was not optimized in the melt-mixing process. However, the role of EG as a reinforcement phase for both electrical and mechanical properties was unambiguously established. The EG composites demonstrated potentially useful attributes for antistatic, barrier, mechanical, electrical, and cost-effective applications. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 91:2781–2788, 2004