Incorporation of core–shell particles into methacrylate based composites for improvement of the mechanical properties†
The fracture toughness of polymeric materials and composites can be enhanced by the incorporation of polymer nanoparticles. The combination of a soft core and a hard shell leads to an improvement of the fracture toughness of the polymeric composites. Thereby, the mechanical resistance of the materials is commonly decreased. In our approach, core–shell nanoparticles consisting of an ethylene glycol dimethacrylate (EGDMA) crosslinked poly(butyl acrylate) (PBA) core and a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) shell were synthesized. The polymer particles were incorporated into triethylene glycol dimethacrylate (TEGDMA)/urethane dimethacrylate (UDMA) based composites in order to tune the mechanical properties. Different core–shell ratios were applied to study the influence on the fracture toughness and E-modulus. An examination of shell-crosslinking with a TEGDMA content of up to 8% was performed to improve particle stability and dispersibility. The particle sizes and morphologies were characterized by dynamic light scattering (DLS), cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) and analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC). Latex particle sizes of 70 to 220 nm were obtained. The mechanical properties (flexural strength, E-modulus and K1c) of polymer composites were investigated in three-point bending tests. Core/shell ratios of 50/50 showed a decreasing effect on flexural strength, E-modulus and K1c. Polymer particles with core/shell ratios of 30/70 led to a significant increase of the mechanical properties with maxima of 1.206 MPa m1/2 (K1c) (increase of 65%), E-modulus of 1.90 GPa (increase of 18%) and flexural strength of 79 MPa (increase of 18%). This study represents the first report of a simultaneous improvement of fracture toughness and E-modulus (at the same time) of additive filled polymer composites. The improvement of mechanical properties makes these materials interesting as tougheners for hard tissue applications like bone cements or dental replacement materials.