Functional inorganic nanofillers for transparent polymers
The integration of inorganic nanoparticles into polymers has been used for the functionalization of polymer materials with great success. Whereas in traditional polymer composites, micron sized particles or agglomerates typically cause significant light scattering hampering optical applications, in nanocomposites the particle dimensions are small enough for the production of highly transparent composites. A challenge for the generation of such materials is to develop an integrated synthesis strategy adapting particle generation, surface modification and integration inside the polymer. Surface grafting using polymerizable surfactants or capping agents allows for linking the particles to the polymer. Novel techniques such as in situ polymerization and in situ particle processing are beneficial to avoid aggregation of inorganic particles inside the polymer matrix. The functions associated with inorganic fillers are widespread. Layered silicates and related materials are nowadays commercially available for improving mechanical and barrier properties in packaging. With the availability of highly transparent materials, the focus has shifted towards optical functions such as luminescence and UV-protection in transparent polymers. IR-active fillers are used in laser-holography for transparent poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) nanocomposites. Refractive index modulation and ultrahigh refractive index films were developed based on inorganic materials such as PbS. The integration of magnetic nanoparticles has a great potential for applications such as electromagnetic interference shielding and magneto-optical storage.
This tutorial review will summarize functions associated with the integration of inorganic nanofillers in polymers with a focus on optical properties.