Characterization and structure–property relationship of melt-mixed high density polyethylene/multi-walled carbon nanotube composites under extensional deformation
Melt-mixed high density polyethylene (HDPE)/multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) nanocomposites with 1–10 wt% MWCNTs were prepared by twin screw extrusion and compression moulded into sheet form. The compression moulded nanocomposites exhibit a 112% increase in modulus at a MWCNT loading of 4 wt%, and a low electrical percolation threshold of 1.9 wt%. Subsequently, uniaxial, sequential (seq-) biaxial and simultaneous (sim-) biaxial stretching of the virgin HDPE and nanocomposite sheets was conducted at different strain rates and stretching temperatures to investigate the processability of HDPE with the addition of nanotubes and the influence of deformation on the structure and final properties of nanocomposites. The results show that the processability of HDPE is improved under all the uniaxial and biaxial deformation conditions due to a strengthened strain hardening behaviour with the addition of MWCNTs. Extensional deformation is observed to disentangle nanotube agglomerates and the disentanglement degree is shown to depend on the stretching mode, strain rate and stretching temperatures applied. The disentanglement effectiveness is: uniaxial stretching < sim-biaxial stretching < seq-biaxial stretching, under the same deformation parameters. In sim-biaxial stretching, reducing the strain rate and stretching temperature can lead to more nanotube agglomerate breakup. Enhanced nanotube agglomerate disentanglement exhibits a positive effect on the mechanical properties and a negative effect on the electrical properties of the deformed nanocomposites. The ultimate stress of the composite containing 4 wt% MWCNTs increased by ∼492% after seq-biaxial stretching, while the resistivity increased by ∼1012 Ω cm.