American Chemical Society
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Graphene Nanocomposites with High Molecular Weight Poly(ε-caprolactone) Grafts: Controlled Synthesis and Accelerated Crystallization

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-02-08, 00:00 authored by Titash Mondal, Rana Ashkar, Paul Butler, Anil K. Bhowmick, Ramanan Krishnamoorti
Grafting of high molecular weight polymers to graphitic nanoplatelets is a critical step toward the development of high performance graphene nanocomposites. However, designing such a grafting route has remained a major impediment. Herein, we report a “grafting to” synthetic pathway by which high molecular weight polymer, poly­(ε-caprolactone) (PCL), is tethered, at high grafting density, to highly anisotropic graphitic nanoplatelets. The efficacy of this tethering route and the resultant structural arrangements within the composite are confirmed by neutron and X-ray scattering measurements in the melt and solution phase. In the semicrystalline state, X-ray analysis indicates that chain tethering onto the graphitic nanoplatelets results in conformational changes of the polymer chains, which enhance the nucleation process and aid formation of PCL crystallites. This is corroborated by the superior thermal properties of the composite, manifested in accelerated crystallization kinetics and a significant increase in the thermal degradation temperature. In principle, this synthesis route can be extended to a variety of high molecular weight polymers, which can open new avenues to solution-based processing of graphitic nanomaterials and the fabrication of complex 3D patterned graphitic nanocomposites.