Cellular Nanocomposites

Cellular nanocomposites are a novel class of cellular materials that include at least one phase (typically inorganic) with size in the nanometric range. Nanoparticles are known to play a multifunctional role in cellular materials as they are able to act at both micro and macrostructural levels. They can enhance nucleation and also improve the thermal, mechanical or barrier properties of the polymer comprising cell walls. However, the potential improvements that are associated to the presence of the nanoparticles are conditioned to achieve proper levels of dispersion and compatibilization between them and polymeric matrix.

CellMat Laboratory has been working with cellular nanocomposites based on different types of nanoparticles (montmorillonite, silica nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, carbon nanofibers, graphene, sepiolites, etc.) that have been infused in different types of polymeric matrices (PE, PP, PS, PU, PMMA, PC, etc.). The main topics included in this research area are:

  • Evaluating the dispersion and compatibilization levels between polymeric matrices and nanoparticles by using conventional and non-conventional experimental techniques.
  • Analysis of the influence of the presence of the nanoparticles in the foaming mechanisms (nucleation, growth and degeneration of cellular structure) and in the physical properties (thermal, mechanical, acoustic or flame retardant).
  • Searching for potential synergetic effects associated to the combination of foaming processes and nanoparticles.
Cell size reduction on a PS foam promoted by the addition of nanoparticles to the system

TEM images of typical nanoparticles used in our research. Nanosilica, sepiolites and montmorillonites

X-ray radioscopy videos showing the strong nucleating effect of nanoclays on a PU system (Neat PU)
X-ray radioscopy videos showing the strong nucleating effect of nanoclays on a PU system (PU + clays)
X-ray tomographies of cellular polymers containing different amounts of nanoclays, showing the cell size reduction due to the addition of these nanoparticles