Fabrication and Characterization of Electrospun Alumina Nanofibre Reinforced Polycarbonate Composites
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Fibres with ultra-high tensile strength have attracted unprecedented attention due to the rapidly increasing demand for strong fibre reinforced composites in various fields. However, despite a theoretical strength as high as around 46 GPa, current commercial alumina fibres only reach strength value of around 3.3 GPa because of the defects between the grains. Electrospinning provides a method to produce ceramic nanofibres with diameters reduced to nano-scale with effectively enhanced strength. Different calcination procedures were applied to study the morphology and crystal structure growth of alumina. Tested with a custom-built AFM-SEM system, the tensile strength of single crystal α-alumina nanofibres were found to have little dependence on diameter variations, with an average value of 11.4±1.1 GPa. While the strength of polycrystalline γ-alumina nanofibres were controlled by defects, showing a diameter dependent mechanism. Apart from the intrinsic properties of the fibre and matrix, the interface between them also plays an important role in determining composite mechanical properties. Collected by a rotating drum during electrospinning, aligned fibres were used to reinforce polycarbonate matrix for fabricating composite. The composite mechanical properties were successfully improved after surface modification with silane coupling agent. With a fibre volume fraction of around 7.5%, the composite strength doubled and the Young’s modulus increased by a factor of 4 when compared with the pure polycarbonate. Apart from surface modification, the fibre/matrix interface can also be affected by transcrystallinity. Transcrystalline layers were formed in the alumina reinforced polycarbonate composites after annealing. Significant enhancement of the Young’s modulus of the crystallized polycarbonate by a factor of 3 compared to the amorphous phase was measured directly using AFM based nanoindentation. Optimization of the Young’s modulus is suggested as a balance between extending the annealing time to grow the transcrystalline layer and reducing the processing time to suppress void development in the PC matrix.
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