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Thermosets include a broad range of materials such as epoxies, phenolics, unsaturated polyesters, vinyl esters and bismaleimide resins. In general, thermosets are known for their good adhesion, high chemical and heat resistance, excellent mechanical and electrical insulating properties. However, they are generally brittle materials due to their crosslinked nature. The research in this area aims at designing block copolymer-based nanostructured thermosets with an effort to develop novel advanced tough thermoset materials with superior mechanical properties and optical clarity.
Hierarchical nanostructures.Hierarchical nanostructures were observed in cured epoxy resin/block copolymer blends. Spherical micelles of diameter ~10 nm are dispersed throughout the resin phase which is composed of a harder epoxy-rich region and a softer copolymer-rich region on the 100 nm scale as shown in AFM phase image below. The larger structures are aggregates of smaller spherical or wormlike micelles (Guo, Q., et al., Macromolecules 2002, 35, 3133).
Nanoconfined crystallization. An interesting aspect we observed in nanostructured thermosets is the nanoscale confinement effect on the crystallization kinetics. An investigation into crystallization in nanoscale domains was performed using a diblock copolymer with a crystallizable immiscible block (Guo, Q., et al., Macromolecules 2003, 36, 3635). As presented above are crystallization temperatures, Tc (PE), from the DSC cooling scans, three distinct regimes of crystallization kinetics were observed, coinciding with the three morphological regions in cured epoxy/PE-PEO blends.
Vesicles and wormlike micelles. Vesicles and wormlike micelles were observed in reactive block copolymer modified novolac epoxy resin (Guo, Q., et al, J. Polym. Sci. Part B: Polym. Phys.S 2003, 41, 1994).
Highly ordered nanostructures. Highly ordered nanostructures were achieved in reactive block copolymer modified thermosets, responsible for improved mechanical properties and thermal stability (Hameed, H., Guo, Q., Xu, Z., Hanley, T. L. and Mai, Y.-W., Soft Matter 2010, 6, 6119
Nanoporous thermosets. We use ozonolysis to produce nanoporous epoxy thermosets. Ozone treatment was employed to create nanoporosity in nanostructured epoxy/PI-P4VP blends via selective removal of the PI microphase, leading to nanoporous epoxy thermosets. Multiscale phase separation with a distinctly different morphology was observed at the air/material interface due to the interfacial effects, whereas only uniform microphase separated morphology at the nanoscale was found in the bulk of the blend of the blend (Guo, Q., et al., Polymer 2008, 49, 1737).