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Influence of initial mixing methods on melt-extruded single-walled carbon nanotube–polypropylene nanocomposites



We report the first direct comparison of melt-extruded polypropylene–single-walled carbon nanotube (PP/SWNT) nanocomposites prepared by three different initial mixing methods. The standard deviation of the G-band intensity obtained using Raman mapping was found to be the best measure of dispersion uniformity in the extruded composites, and dispersion uniformity was found to generally correlate with rheological and thermal properties. For all three initial mixing methods, both unmodified and sidewall-functionalized purified SWNTs were evaluated. Surprisingly, in all cases, dodecylated SWNTs prepared using the reductive alkylation method were less uniformly dispersed in the final composite than the unmodified SWNTs. The simplest process, dry blending, resulted in poor nanotube dispersion and only polymer crystallization was significantly affected by the presence of the nanotubes. A slightly more complex rotary evaporation process resulted in significantly more uniform dispersion and significant changes in rheological properties, polymer crystallization, and thermal stability. The most elaborate process tested, hot coagulation, enabled the most uniform dispersion and the greatest change in properties but also resulted in some polymer degradation. POLYM. ENG. SCI., 50:1831–1842, 2010. © 2010 Society of Plastics Engineers