Toughening Structural Adhesives Using Novel Core-Shell Thermoplastic Nanoparticles

Introduction Structural Adhesives are increasingly replacing traditional fastening methods such as welding, bolts and rivets, in industrial applications. They are used to bond many different material types including ceramics, metals, glass, plastics and composites, and are designed for high strength, creep resistance, and resistance to harsh service environments such as high temperatures and chemicals. Several methods are available to toughen thermosetting resins, such as epoxies, commonly used in structural adhesives and it has been speculated that the incorporation of appropriate core-shell nanoparticles may offer an ultimate solution; however, an appropriate balance in mechanical/thermal properties has not yet been achieved due to limitations of both core and shell materials. Technology description Researchers at the University of Washington have developed novel thermoplastic nanometer-sized core particles grafted with a polyamine shell in an inexpensive process that substantially enhance mechanical (i.e., fracture toughness and stiffness) without sacrificing much of thermal properties, as demonstrated in fracture toughness and flexural tests and hot-wet performances of the toughened epoxies. The core was polymerized from any vinyl thermoplastic monomers of choice for mechanical properties whereas the shell guarantees a good dispersion/adhesion throughout epoxy due to strong interactions between the amino and epoxy groups. Dramatic interfacial stretching (shell effect) and through cracks (core effect) were determined to be responsible for the enhancement. Business Opportunity The US market for epoxy adhesives is estimated to be just under 200 million pounds spread across a broad base of end use markets, with automotive assembly applications approaching 50% of the total volume. In the light of their success with epoxies, a similar enhancement is expected with many other polymers such as polyurethane, whose groups are compatible with the shell of these particles. In addition, the shell may easily be modified to work with other structural adhesives and polymers. An unlimited number of applications, where mechanical properties, light weight and low cost are equally important, are anticipated. Intellectual Property Position UW is currently evaluating this technology for patent protection.

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