Glassy epoxy-clay nanocomposites (Tg ≈ 82 °C) have been prepared by the reaction of diglycidyl ether of bisphenol A and a polyoxyalkylene amine curing agent in the presence of organo cation exchanged smectite (montmorillonite) clays. Commercially available AMS and CWC montmorillonites purified on the industrial scale (Nanocor, Inc.) afforded nanocomposites with performance properties comparable to those obtained from montmorillonite purified by laboratory methods. We provide the first evidence for clay nanolayer reinforcement of a glassy epoxy matrix under compressive strain. Compression stress - strain experiments revealed substantial improvements in the modulus and yield strength when the clay nanolayers were exfoliated in the glassy matrix. However, no improvement in the modulus or yield strength was observed when the clay component was merely intercalated by the epoxy matrix, signifying that nanolayer exfoliation is an essential feature of reinforcement. Furthermore, the mechanical properties of epoxy-clay nanocomposites prepared with the C18H37NH3+ - exchanged forms of the AMS and CWC clays have been tested by dynamic mechanical analysis and thermal mechanical analysis. The nanocomposites exhibit improved dynamic storage modulus above and below the glass transition temperature, as well as lower coefficients of thermal expansivity compared to the pure polymer. In addition, the solvent resistant properties of the nanocomposites are substantially improved compared to the pristine polymer.
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