Polymer layered silicate (PLS) nanocomposites have been prepared with diglycidyl ether of bisphenol-A (DGEBA) epoxy resin as the matrix and organically modified montmorillonite (MMT) as the clay nanofiller. Resin-clay mixtures with different clay contents (zero, two, five and 10 wt%) were cured, both isothermally and non-isothermally, using a poly(ethyleneimine) hyperbranched polymer (HBP), the cure kinetics being monitored by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The nanostructure of the cured nanocomposites was characterized by small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and their mechanical properties were determined by dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) and impact testing. The results are compared with an earlier study of the structure and properties of the same DGEBA-MMT system cured with a polyoxypropylene diamine, Jeffamine. There are very few examples of the use of HBP as a curing agent in epoxy PLS nanocomposites; here, it is found to enhance significantly the degree of exfoliation of these nanocomposites compared with those cured with Jeffamine, with a corresponding enhancement in the impact energy for nanocomposites with the low clay content of 2 wt%. These changes are attributed to the different cure kinetics with the HBP, in which the intra-gallery homopolymerization reaction is accelerated, such that it occurs before the bulk cross-linking reaction.
Keywords: differential scanning calorimetry (DSC); epoxy; exfoliation; hyperbranched polymer (HBP); impact energy; layered silicate; montmorillonite; nanocomposites.