Montmorillonite/poly(vinyl alcohol) (MMT/PVA) nanocomposites spanning the complete range of MMT content (0–100 wt%) are prepared by simple evaporation-induced assembly. Effects of MMT content on the structure and mechanical properties of nanocomposites are systematically investigated and exhibit two important transitions at MMT contents of 30 wt% and 70 wt%. In the range of 0–30 wt%, the nanocomposites show a random structure. With the content of PVA increasing, the mechanical properties of the resultant nanocomposites were dramatically enhanced and were higher than that by prediction according to the conventional composite model. In the range of 30–70 wt%, the nanocomposites show a nacre-like layered structure with alternating MMT platelets and PVA layers, and all PVA is completely restricted by MMT platelets. The mechanical properties of nanocomposites were further improved by increasing the content of MMT, and reached the maximum value at the MMT content of 70 wt%. The 70 wt% MMT/PVA nanocomposite has a tensile strength of 219 ± 19 MPa, which is 5.5 times higher than that of a pure PVA film and surpasses nacre and reported biomimetic layered clay/PVA composites. When the MMT content is higher than 70 wt%, the layered structure is transformed to tactoids, which deteriorate mechanical properties. These results offer comprehensive understanding for developing high-performance biomimetic layered nanocomposite materials with high nanofiller loading.
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