Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is one of the most important polymers in use today for packaging due to its outstanding properties. The usage of PET has grown at the highest rate compared with other plastic packaging over the last 20 years, and it is anticipated that the increase in global demand will be around 6% in the 2010 ¿ 2015 period.\ud The rheological behaviour, thermal properties, tensile modulus, permeability properties and degradation phenomena of PET/clay nanocomposites have been investigated in this project. An overall, important finding is that incorporation of nanoclays in PET gives rise to improvements in several key process and product parameters together ¿ processability/ reduced process energy, thermal properties, barrier properties and stiffness. The PET pellets have been compounded with carefully selected nanoclays (Somasif MAE, Somasif MTE and Cloisite 25A) via twin screw extrusion to produce PET/clay nanocomposites at various weight fractions of nanoclay (1, 3, 5, 20 wt.%). The nanoclays vary in the aspect ratio of the platelets, surfactant and/or gallery spacing so different effect are to be expected. The materials were carefully prepared prior to processing in terms of sufficient drying and re-crystallisation of the amorphous pellets as well as the use of dual motor feeders for feeding the materials to the extruder.\ud The rheological properties of PET melts have been found to be enhanced by decreasing the viscosity of the PET i.e. increasing the ¿flowability¿ of the PET melt during the injection or/and extrusion processes. The apparent shear viscosity of PETNCs is show to be significantly lower than un-filled PET at high shear rates. The viscosity exhibits shear thinning behaviour which can be explained by two mechanisms which can occur simultaneously. The first mechanism proposed is that some polymer has entangled and few oriented molecular chain at rest and when applying high shear rates, the level of entanglements is reduced and the molecular chains tend to orient with the flow direction. The other mechanism is that the nanoparticles align with the flow direction at high shear rates. At low shear rate, the magnitudes of the shear viscosity are dependent on the nanoclay concentrations and processing shear rate. Increasing nanoclay concentration leads to increases in shear viscosity. The viscosity was observed to deviate from Newtonian behaviour and exhibited shear thinning at a 3 wt.% concentration. It is possible that the formation of aggregates of clay is responsible for an increase in shear viscosity. Reducing the shear viscosity has positive benefits for downstream manufacturers by reducing power consumption. It was observed that all\ud ii\ud three nanoclays used in this project act as nucleation agents for crystallisation by increasing the crystallisation temperature from the melt and decreasing the crystallisation temperature from the solid and increasing the crystallisation rate, while retaining the melt temperature and glass transition temperatures without significant change. This enhancement in the thermal properties leads to a decrease in the required cycle time for manufacturing processes thus potentially reducing operational costs and increasing production output.\ud It was observed that the nanoclay significantly enhanced the barrier properties of the PET film by up to 50% this potentially allows new PET packaging applications for longer shelf lives or high gas pressures.\ud PET final products require high stiffness whether for carbonated soft drinks or rough handling during distribution. The PET/Somasif nanocomposites exhibit an increase in the tensile modulus of PET nanocomposite films by up to 125% which can be attributed to many reasons including the good dispersion of these clays within the PET matrix as shown by TEM images as well as the good compatibility between the PET chains and the Somasif clays. The tensile test results for the PET/clay nanocomposites micro-moulded samples shows that the injection speed is crucial factor affecting the mechanical properties of polymer injection moulded products
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