Abstract: Polymer-layered silicate nanocomposites have been shown to improve the gas barrier properties of food packaging polymers. This study developed a computer simulation model using the commercial software, COMSOL Multiphysics to analyze changes in oxygen barrier properties in terms of relative diffusivity, as influenced by configuration and structural parameters that include volume fraction (φ), aspect ratio (α), intercalation width (W), and orientation angle (θ) of nanoparticles. The simulation was performed at different φ (1%, 3%, 5%, and 7%), α (50, 100, 500, and 1000), and W (1, 3, 5, and 7 nm). The θ value was varied from 0° to 85°. Results show that diffusivity decreases with increasing volume fraction, but beyond φ= 5% and α= 500, diffusivity remained almost constant at W values of 1 and 3 nm. Higher relative diffusivity coincided with increasing W and decreasing α value for the same volume fraction of nanoparticles. Diffusivity increased as the rotational angle increased, gradually diminishing the influence of nanoparticles. Diffusivity increased drastically as θ changed from 15° to 30° (relative increment in relative diffusivity was almost 3.5 times). Nanoparticles with exfoliation configuration exhibited better oxygen barrier properties compared to intercalation. The finite element model developed in this study provides insight into oxygen barrier properties for nanocomposite with a wide range of structural parameters. This model can be used to design and manufacture an ideal nanocomposite-based food packaging film with improved gas barrier properties for industrial applications.
Practical Applications: The model will assist in designing nanocomposite polymeric structures of desired gas barrier properties for food packaging applications. In addition, this study will be helpful in formulating a combination of nanoparticle structural parameters for designing nanocomposite membranes with selective permeability for the industrial applications including membrane separation techniques.