Preparation and characterization of low density polyethylene/clay nanocomposites

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Low Density Polyethylene/clay nanocomposite is a thermoplastic polymer matrix, (Low density polyethylene), that has nanometer scale clay fillers dispersed in it. The characteristic structure (phase separated or intercalated or exfoliated structure) of the material enhances its properties. This work reports the preparation of Low density polyethylene filled with nanometer scale Ghanaian clay particles, and determines the structure of the material formed. Commonly known clay samples from Mfensi and Aferi communities in Ashanti region were used. Clay particles were modified with octadecylamine surfactant and incorporated into the LDPE matrix by melt mixing route. The modified Mfensi and Aferi clays, as well as LDPE/ Mfensi clay nanocomposites and LDPE/ Aferi clay nanocomposites, were characterized by Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy, (FTIR) and X-ray diffractometric (XRD) techniques. Crosslinking density of the materials was determined by swelling index measurements. Complete dispersion of clay fillers were best observed at very low clay loadings. LDPE/Aferi clay nanocomposites had modified Aferi clay particles well dispersed in them compared to that of LDPE/Mfensi clay nanocomposites. Modified clay contents increased the C-H vibrational motions of the LDPE/Mfensi and LDPE/Aferi clay nanocomposites. Crosslinking density of the nanocomposites decreased with increasing clay contents. This work concludes that, the best modified clay dispersion for property enhancement of Low Density Polyethylene/ clay nanocomposites was obtained at 2wt% clay loadings for both modified Mfensi and Aferi clay loadings. The structure of the LDPE/ clay nanocomposites formed was a phase separated structure.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Chemistry, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Award of the Master of Philosophy Degree in Polymer Science and Technology. JUNE 2012