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  5. Alignment of highly anisotropic nanomaterials in a polymer matrix can yield nanocomposites with unique mechanical and transport properties. Conventional methods of nanocomposite film fabrication are not well-suited for manufacturing composites with very high concentrations of anisotropic nanomaterials, potentially limiting the widespread implementation of these useful structures. In this work, we present a scalable approach to fabricate polymer-infiltrated nanoplatelet films (PINFs) based on flow coating and capillary rise infiltration (CaRI) and study the processing–structure–property relationship of these PINFs. We show that films with high aspect ratio (AR) gibbsite (Al (OH) 3 ) nanoplatelets (NPTs) aligned parallel to the substrate can be prepared using a flow coating process. NPTs are highly aligned with a Herman's order parameter of 0.96 and a high packing fraction >80 vol%. Such packings show significantly higher fracture toughness compared to low AR nanoparticle (NP) packings. By depositing NPTs on a polymer film and subsequently annealing the bilayer above the glass transition temperature of the polymer, polymer infiltrates into the tortuous NPT packings though capillarity. We observe larger enhancement in the modulus, hardness and scratch resistance of NPT films upon polymer infiltration compared to NP packings. The excellent mechanical properties of such films benefit from both thermally promotedmore »oxide bridge formation between NPTs as well as polymer infiltration increasing the strength of NPT contacts. Our approach is widely applicable to highly anisotropic nanomaterials and allows the generation of mechanically robust polymer nanocomposite films for a diverse set of applications.« less
  6. The effect of static silica particles on the dynamics of quantum dot (QD) nanoparticles grafted with a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) brush in hydrogel nanocomposites is investigated using single particle tracking (SPT). At a low volume fraction of homogeneously dispersed silica ( Φ = 0.005), two distinct populations of PEG-QDs are observed, localized and mobile, whereas almost all PEG-QDs are mobile in neat hydrogel ( Φ = 0.0). Increasing the silica particle concentration ( Φ = 0.01, 0.1) results in an apparent change in the network structure, confounding the impact of silica on PEG-QD dynamics. The localized behavior of PEG-QDs is attributed to pH-mediated attraction between the PEG brush on the probe and surface silanol groups of silica. Using quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D), the extent of this interaction is investigated as a function of pH. At pH 5.8, the PEG brush on the probe can hydrogen bond with the silanol groups on silica, leading to adsorption of PEG-QDs. In contrast, at pH 9.2, silanol groups are deprotonated and PEG-QD is unable to hydrogen bond with silica leading to negligible adsorption. To test the effect of pH, PEG-QD dynamics are further investigated in hydrogel nanocomposites at Φ = 0.005. SPTmore »agrees with the QCM-D results; at pH 5.8, PEG-QDs are localized whereas at pH 9.2 the PEG-QDs are mobile. This study provides insight into controlling probe transport through hydrogel nanocomposites using pH-mediated interactions, with implications for tuning transport of nanoparticles underlying drug delivery and nanofiltration.« less
  7. Polymer-infiltrated nanoparticle films (PINFs) are a new class of nanocomposites that offer synergistic properties and functionality derived from unusually high fractions of nanomaterials. Recently, two versatile techniques,capillary rise infiltration (CaRI) and solvent-driven infiltration of polymer (SIP), have been introduced that exploit capillary forces in films of densely packed nanoparticles. In CaRI, a highly loaded PINF is produced by thermally induced wicking of polymer melt into the nanoparticle packing pores. In SIP, exposure of a polymer–nanoparticle bilayer to solvent vapor atmosphere induces capillary condensation of solvent in the pores of nanoparticle packing, leading to infiltration of polymer into the solvent-filled pores. CaRI/SIP PINFs show superior properties compared with polymer nanocomposite films made using traditional methods, including superb mechanical properties, thermal stability, heat transfer, and optical properties. This review discusses fundamental aspects of the infiltration process and highlights potential applications in separations, structural coatings, and polymer upcycling—a process to convert polymer wastes into useful chemicals.