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The effect of mixing methods on the dispersion of carbon nanotubes during the solvent-free processing of multiwalled carbon nanotube/epoxy composites



Several solvent-free processing methods to disperse multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) in bisphenol F-based epoxy resin were investigated, including the use of a microfluidizer (MF), planetary shear mixer (PSM), ultrasonication (US) and combinations. The processed mixture was cured with diethyl toluene diamine. Three complimentary techniques were used to characterize the dispersion of the MWCNTs in cured composite samples: optical microscopy, micro Raman spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). For sample MF + PSM, optical micrographs and Raman images showed reduced agglomeration and a homogeneous distribution of MWCNTs in the epoxy matrix. SEM analysis of fractured specimen after tensile testing revealed breakage of nanotubes along the fracture surface of the composite. A comparison of the MWCNT dispersion in the epoxy samples processed using different methods showed that a combination of MF and PSM processing yields a more homogeneous sample than the PSM or US + PSM processed samples. Mechanical testing of the composites showed about 15% improvement in the tensile strength of samples processed by the MF + PSM method over other methods. Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) results showed a small decrease in the onset degradation temperature for poorly dispersed samples produced by PSM compared with the well-mixed samples (MF + PSM). These results strongly suggest that the MF + PSM processing method yield better-dispersed and stronger MWCNT/epoxy composites. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys, 2013