This study investigates the influence of coal fly ash (CFA) as a reinforcing material on the strength and the gelation of polyacrylamide (PAM)/polyethyleneimine (PEI) composite gels. Pure PAM/PEI gel and PAM/PEI gels containing CFA up to 2 wt % were synthesized via the cross-linking reaction between PAM and PEI solutions at room temperature (25°C) in distilled water dispersed with CFA. The strength of each composite gel was measured at temperature of 80°C, while the gelation was determined from 80°C to 95°C. Rheological measurements indicated that the strength of PAM/PEI composite gels filled with CFA contents was significantly rigid and stronger than that of pure PAM/PEI gel as a result of the enhanced interfacial interaction of well-dispersed CFA contents in PAM/PEI gel matrix. The gelation times of PAM/PEI gels containing CFA up to 2 wt % deviated from the gelation time of pure PAM/PEI gel. It was further observed that an increase in temperature resulted in a decrease in gelation time of PAM/PEI gel containing 2 wt % CFA. The scanning electron microscopy revealed the surface micrographs of PAM/PEI gels filled with CFA to be very dense without any noticeable micropores. The micropores were absent as scanning was performed on the dried composite gels. It also establishes the strong interaction between CFA and PAM/PEI gel matrix. Experimental findings showed that PAM/PEI composite gels reinforced with CFA are potential candidates for total water shut-off treatment in oilfields. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2015, 132, 41392.
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