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Keywords:

  • mechanical properties;
  • microstructure;
  • nanocomposites;
  • particle size distribution;
  • structure–property relations

Abstract

In contrast to the bulk of published nanocomposite studies, in this study we investigated the mechanical properties of alumina/epoxy nanocomposites manufactured with nanofillers having a fiber or whisker morphology. The article describes how ultrasonic dispersion and in situ polymerization were used to incorporate these 2–4 nm diameter fibers (with aspect ratios of 25–50) into a two-part epoxy resin (Epon 826/Epicure 9551). The use of untreated and surface-modified nanoparticles is contrasted, and improvements in both the tensile strength and modulus were observed at low filler loadings. Microstructural characterization of the nanocomposites via multiscale digital image analysis was used to interpret the mechanical properties and was found to be useful for direct comparison with other nanocomposites. In addition, superior performance was demonstrated through comparisons with numerous nanocomposites with nanoparticle reinforcements ranging from carbon nanofibers to spherical alumina particles. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2011