As a preliminary starting point for the present study, physical and mechanical properties of polypropylene nanocomposites (PPNCs) for samples received from Queen's University Belfast have been evaluated. Subsequently, polymer/clay nanocomposite material has been produced at Bradford. Mixing and processing routes have been explored, and mechanical properties for the different compounded samples have been studied. Clay intercalation structure has received particular attention to support the ultimate objective of optimising tensile and fracture behaviour of isotropic and die-drawn PPNCs. Solid-state molecular orientation has been introduced to PPNCs by the die-drawing process. Tensile stress-strain measurements with video-extensometry and tensile fracture of double edge-notched tensile specimens have been used to evaluate the Young¿s modulus at three different strain rates and the total work of fracture toughness at three different notch lengths. The polymer composite was analyzed by differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetric analysis, polarizing optical microscopy, wide angle x-ray diffraction, and transmission electron microscopy.\ud 3% and 5% clay systems at various compatibilizer (PPMA) loadings were prepared by three different mixing routes for the isotropic sheets, produced by compression moulding, and tensile bars, produced by injection moulding process. Die-drawn oriented tensile bars were drawn to draw ratio of 2, 3 and 4.\ud The results from the Queen's University Belfast samples showed a decrement in tensile strength at yield. This might be explained by poor bonding, which refers to poor dispersion. Voids that can be supported by intercalated PP/clay phases might be responsible for improvement of elongation at break.\ud The use of PPMA and an intensive mixing regime with a two-step master batch process overcame the compatibility issue and achieved around 40% and 50% increase in modulus for 3% and 5% clay systems respectively. This improvement of the two systems was reduced after drawing to around 15% and 25% compared with drawn PP.\ud The work of fracture is increased either by adding nanoclay or by drawing to low draw ratio, or both. At moderate and high draw ratios, PPNCs may undergo either an increase in the size of microvoids at low clay loading or coalescence of microvoids at high clay loading, eventually leading to an earlier failure than with neat PP.\ud The adoption of PPMA loading using an appropriate mixing route and clay loading can create a balance between the PPMA stiffness effect and the degree of bonding between clay particles and isotropic or oriented polymer molecules. Spherulites size, d-spacing of silicate layers, and nanoparticles distribution of intercalated microtactoids with possible semi-exfoliated particles have been suggested to optimize the final PPNCs property.SABI
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