Polymer blend-filled nanoparticle films via monomer-driven infiltration of polymer and photopolymerization†
Incorporation of nanoparticles into polymer blend films can lead to a synergistic combination of properties and functionalities. Adding a large concentration of nanoparticles into a polymer blend matrix via conventional melting or solution blending techniques, however, is challenging due to the tendency of particles to aggregate. Herein, we report a straightforward approach to generate polymer blend/nanoparticle ternary composite films with extremely high loadings of nanoparticles based on monomer-driven infiltration of polymer and photopolymerization. The fabrication process consists of three steps: (1) preparing a bilayer with a nanoparticle (NP) layer atop a polymer layer, (2) annealing of the bilayer with a vapour mixture of a monomer and a photoinitiator, which undergoes capillary condensation and imparts mobility to the polymer layer and (3) exposing this film to UV light to induce photopolymerization of the monomer. The monomer used in this process is chemically different from the repeat unit of the polymer in the bilayer and is a good solvent for the polymer. The second step leads to the infiltration of the plasticized polymer, and the third step results in a blend of two polymers in the interstices of the nanoparticle layer. By varying the thickness ratio of the polymer and nanoparticle layers in the initial bilayers and changing the UV exposure duration, the volume fraction of the two polymers in the composite films can be adjusted. This versatile approach enables the design and engineering of a new class of nanocomposite films that contain a nanoscale-blend of two polymers in the interstices of a nanoparticle film, which could have combinations of unique mechanical and transport properties desirable for advanced applications such as membrane separations, conductive composite films and solar cells. Moreover, these polymer blend-filled nanoparticle films could serve as model systems to study the effect of confinement on the miscibility and morphology of polymer blends.
- This article is part of the themed collection: MSDE Emerging Investigators 2018