Melt processing and characterisation of polyamide 6/graphene nanoplatelet composites
Graphene, due to its outstanding properties, has become the topic of much research activity in recent years. Much of that work has been on a laboratory scale however, if we are to introduce graphene into real product applications it is necessary to examine how the material behaves under industrial processing conditions. In this paper the melt processing of polyamide 6/graphene nanoplatelet composites via twin screw extrusion is investigated and structure–property relationships are examined for mechanical and electrical properties. Graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs) with two aspect ratios (700 and 1000) were used in order to examine the influence of particle dimensions on composite properties. It was found that the introduction of GNPs had a nucleating effect on polyamide 6 (PA6) crystallization and substantially increased crystallinity by up to 120% for a 20% loading in PA6. A small increase in crystallinity was observed when extruder screw speed increased from 50 rpm to 200 rpm which could be attributed to better dispersion and more nucleation sites for crystallization. A maximum enhancement of 412% in Young's modulus was achieved at 20 wt% loading of GNPs. This is the highest reported enhancement in modulus achieved to date for a melt mixed thermoplastic/GNPs composite. A further result of importance here is that the modulus continued to increase as the loading of GNPs increased even at 20 wt% loading and results are in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions for modulus enhancement. Electrical percolation was achieved between 10–15 wt% loading for both aspect ratios of GNPs with an increase in conductivity of approximately 6 orders of magnitude compared to the unfilled PA6.