Size and synergy effects of nanofiller hybrids including graphene nanoplatelets and carbon nanotubes in mechanical properties of epoxy composites
We study mechanical reinforcement in a widely used epoxy matrix with the addition of graphene nanoplatelets (GnPs) and various mixture ratios of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with GnPs. Two different dimensions of GnPs were used with flake sizes of 5 mu m and 25 mu m to investigate the influence of nanofiller size on composite properties. In GnP reinforced composites, bigger flakes showed greater reinforcement at all GnP concentrations as they actively control the failure mechanisms in the composite. In the mixture samples, highest CNT content (9:1) showed marked improvement in fracture toughness of 76%. The CNT:GnP ratio is an interesting factor significantly influencing the properties of the epoxy based nanocomposites. The combination of high aspect ratio of CNTs and larger surface area of GnPs contribute to the synergistic effect of the hybrid samples. Thermal conductivity consistently increases with incorporation of GnPs in the matrix. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images confirm the uniform nanofiller dispersion achieved in the composites. For the hybrid samples CNTs are seen to align themselves on the GnP flakes creating an inter-connected strong nanofiller network in the matrix. The homogeneous nanofiller dispersions have been achieved by high shear calendaring which is a method capable of being industrially scaled up. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.