Polyethylene/boron nitride composites for space radiation shielding



Composites made with boron might be absorbers of low energy neutrons, and could be used for structural materials for spacecraft. Polyethylene/boron nitride composites were fabricated using conventional polymer processing techniques, and were evaluated for mechanical and radiation shielding properties. The boron nitride powder surfaces were also functionalized to improve interfacial adhesion. Addition of neat boron nitride to an injection molding grade HDPE increased the tensile modulus from 588 to 735 MPa with 15 vol % filler. The bonding of a trifunctional alkoxysilane to the powder surface prior to processing increases the composite modulus to 856 MPa at the same loading. Scanning electron microscopy of fracture surfaces verified that the silane-treated powders had improved adhesion at the filler/polymer interface. Radiation shielding measurements of a 2 wt % boron nitride composite were improved over those of the neat polyethylene. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2008