Degradation of Nanocomposites under Environmental Conditions and Nanotoxicity Implications

A. Orlov, J. Ging, R. Tejerina, G. Ramakrishnan, C. Korach
Stony Brook University, US

Keywords: nanotoxicity, composites, environmental degradation

Summary:

Polymer nanocomposites are increasingly used in many industries, ranging from construction to medical applications. These polymer nanocomposites have been demonstrated to have much better performance as compared to unmodified polymers due their unique combination of mechanical, thermal, electric and environmental properties. However, the potential environmental and health hazards posed by the nanofillers are not completely understood. There is a lack of systematic studies on the release of the nanofillers from the composite matrix, which can potentially cause significant environmental and health concerns. This project looks into the stability of CNT-filled epoxy polymer composites subjected to UV and water vapour, which simulates accelerated environmental exposure. Using a comobination of various characterization methods, such as electron micrscopy (SEM, TEM), spectroscopy (FTIR, XPS) and weight measurements we have assessed environmental degradation of both functionalized and pure CNTs. We have observed a significant degradation of the matrix and postulated several feasible mechanisms of release of nanofragments. Our project also looked into such scenarios as combined of mechanical/environmental degradation and implications of this scenario on nanotoxicity and environmental exposure. This scenario has not been studied before.