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Polymer-clay nanocomposites
We started this work in 2001 at a stage when there was little UK activity on the effects of smectite clays on polymers with an EPSRC grant with Peter Coveney and Durham University. As well as pioneering computer modelling from Peter Coveney’s group, fundamental studies emerged on preferential intercalation of high molecular weight polymer fractions [J. Phys. Chem. 108 (2004) 14986-14990], driving force for intercalation [Phil. Mag. 85 (2005 1519-1538], calculation of effective volume fractions [Macromolecules 39 (2006) 1790-1796] and modulus of clay platelets [Scripta Mat. 54 (2006) 1581-1585]. This work continues with an emphasis on using smectite clays to improve the properties of polymer blends, especially for recycled materials. Other aspects include the preparation of foams by making use of blowing agents concealed in the galleries [Nanotechnology 16 (2005) 2334-2337] which opens up the idea of a ‘Trojan Horse’ approach to materials in which additives, perhaps medicaments, are hidden in the galleries. In the most recent developments, we are making ‘bricks and mortar’ structures that simulate the nacre of abalone using groups of clay platelets.
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