Interaction between different toughening mechanisms is studied using a heat treated hybrid system, consisting of carboxyl-terminated butadiene acrylonitrile (CTBN) rubber and EXPANCEL (expandable hollow microspheres) as modifiers for an epoxy resin. It was found that the fracture toughness of the hybrid system is higher than that of either individually EXPANCEL- or CTBN-modified system for a given content of modifier, although the maximum toughness was not substantially high compared with maxima of single modifier systems. Microscopic examination revealed that damage zone due to CTBN particles ahead of the crack reduces due to the presence of EXPANCEL particles and nevertheless its fracture toughness increased. A possibility was deduced that the cavitation due to CTBN assists with promoting compressive stresses around EXPANCEL particles ahead of the crack tip, resulting in increase in fracture toughness. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 100: 4470–4475, 2006
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