In situ synthesis of epoxy nanocomposites with hierarchical surface-modiﬁed SiO2 clusters
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Polymer nanocomposites are often produced using in situ approaches where an inorganic ﬁller (as the dispersed phase) is synthesized directly in an organic matrix. Such an approach generally leads to improved dispersion and reduced agglomeration of the ﬁller material. Epoxy-based nanocomposites have demonstrated promising properties for application as high-voltage insulation materials. In this work, a sol–gel based method has been adapted to synthesize surface-functionalized SiO2 in situ in epoxy. The synthesized SiO2 moieties were dispersed in clusters of 10–80 nm, and formed chemical bonds with the epoxy monomers via a silane coupling agent. Raman spectra show the formation of four-membered D1 rings, which may be part of a cage-like structure similar to that of polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes (POSS). SAXS measurements indicate that the SiO2 clusters consist of a hierarchical structure with an increasing fractal dimension with increasing SiO2 content. The nanocomposites displayed improved thermal stability, while the glass transition behavior varied depending on the structure and content of the SiO2 moieties. While the relative permittivity showed no signiﬁcant changes from that of pure epoxy, the onset of the dielectric relaxation changed with the SiO2 structure and content, similar to the behavior observed for the glass transition.