Three different protocols for the preparation of polymer layered silicate nanocomposites based upon a tri-functional epoxy resin, triglycidyl para-amino phenol (TGAP), have been compared in respect of the cure kinetics, the nanostructure and their mechanical properties. The three preparation procedures involve 2 wt% and 5 wt% of organically modified montmorillonite (MMT), and are: isothermal cure at selected temperatures; pre-conditioning of the resin-clay mixture before isothermal cure; incorporation of an initiator of cationic homopolymerisation, a boron tri-fluoride methyl amine complex, BF₃·MEA, within the clay galleries. It was found that features of the cure kinetics and of the nanostructure correlate with the measured impact strength of the cured nanocomposites, which increases as the degree of exfoliation of the MMT is improved. The best protocol for toughening the TGAP/MMT nanocomposites is by the incorporation of 1 wt% BF₃·MEA into the clay galleries of nanocomposites containing 2 wt% MMT.
Keywords: differential scanning calorimetry; epoxy; exfoliation; homopolymerisation; layered silicate; mechanical properties; montmorillonite; nanocomposite; nanostructure; pre-conditioning.