SBIR Phase II: Synthesis and Processing of High Performance Polymer Nanocomposite Foams

Period of Performance: 01/01/2006 - 12/31/2006

$500K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

NIL
1109 Millcreek Lane
Columbus, OH 43220
Principal Investigator

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop and scale-up a new group of light-weight, high-strength and fire-resistant polymeric foams by using innovative nanotechnology. The project explores the synthesis of nanocomposites using both plate-like and fiber-like nanoparticles with high carbon dioxide (CO2) affinity. Polymer blends including a minor phase with high CO2 solubility are used as the matrix material. To improve fire-resistance, surfactant-free and water-expandable polymer/clay nanocomposites are also prepared by suspension polymerization of inverse emulsion. Since low molecular weight surfactants are not needed, there is no fire hazard problem. These polymer blend nanocomposites are then used to produce high performance foam products aimed at both insulation and structural applications. The presence of nanoparticles in polymer blends allows better control of cell morphology and foam density in the manufacturing processes. Ultra-low-density foams with thermal insulation properties better than the existing insulation materials and high-density microcellular foams with mechanical properties close to those of solid polymers are achieved. The materials and processing conditions will be optimized to obtain better foamability and mechanical properties of these novel nanocomposites foams. Commercially, nanocomposite reinforced foams have the potential in structural applications to replace solid polymers. The U.S. market for polymer foams was more than 7.4 billion pounds in 2001. Currently, their applications are limited by poor mechanical strength, surface quality, thermal stability and fire retardance. Furthermore, traditional chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) blowing agents cause ozone depletion and will be banned by 2010. As environmentally benign blowing agent CO2 is used to replace CFCs, the success of this project will be extremely valuable for environmental protection. A successful implementation of this novel technology can lead to significant impact on energy saving, material saving, and environmental protection that are critical to our nation's economy and societal health.