Production of Functionally Gradient Materials Using Model Thermosetting Systems Cured in a Thermal Gradient


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Virginia Tech


Thermosetting polymers can cure at a gradient of cure temperatures due to a variety of factors, including heat transfer in the thermoset during heating and the exotherm due to the chemical reaction occurring during the cure. A new method for assessing the effect of cure conditions on mechanical behavior of toughened thermosets has been developed. Modeling of the phase separation process of a model thermoset system provided detailed understanding of the mechanism of property variation with cure temperature for this material. Subsequent characterization of gradient temperature cured samples has shown important variations, illustrating not only the importance of cure conditions, but the possibility of producing materials with new and useful properties.

A special mold was developed to cure samples in a controlled gradient of temperature. Example systems known to show pronounced variations in microstructure cured in this gradient mold showed large variations of microstructure as a function of position within the sample, corresponding to the cure temperature at that point.

A model toughened thermoset system was developed to demonstrate gradients of properties following cure in the gradient temperature mold. Cyanate ester materials were modified with hydroxyl-terminated butadiene-acrylonitrile copolymers as well as low Tg amorphous polyesters. The polyesters showed very desirable properties for a toughener, including relatively good thermo-oxidative stability in comparison with the butadiene-acrylonitrile toughener. However, the variation of properties of the cured materials with temperature was small, and to better understand the property variation possible using a gradient cure temperature technique, the butadiene-acrylonitrile toughened cyanate ester system was chosen for further study. This system showed a significant variation of glass transition temperature of the cyanate-rich phase as a function of cure temperature.

Modeling of the phase separation process of this material was varied out employing a modeling procedure developed for epoxy materials. Various characteristics of the system were determined in order to apply the model to the chosen toughened thermoset. These included viscosity, surface, and thermodynamic parameters in addition to a careful characterization of the morphological parameters developed during cure at the chosen temperatures. Results show excellent predictive capability of the model for microstructure. Prediction of phase composition as a function of cure temperature is also possible, again with good agreement with experiment results. Higher cure temperatures result in a non-equilibrium phase composition, depressing the glass transition temperature of the continuous cyanate ester rich phase. This provides a mechanism by which properties of the system change as a function of position within a gradient temperature cured sample.

Dynamic mechanical analysis was employed to characterize the relaxation properties of gradient and isothermally cured samples. The Havriliak Negami equation was chosen to describe the relaxation behavior of these samples. Comparison of the fitting of isotherms over the small, experimentally accessible range of frequencies showed that the use of time-temperature superpositioning could more reliably discern relatively small differences. The breadth of the relaxation corresponding to the glass transition of the polycyanurate phase was increased with a gradient cure temperature relative to isothermally cured samples. This increased broadness was expressed in an alternative way through the use of an autocorrelation function, which allows direct comparison of the time-dependent transition from a fully unrelaxed condition to a fully relaxed one.



Gradient Materials, Thermoset, Toughening Polycyanurates, Phase Separation, Relaxation, Dynamic Mechanical Analysis, Polymers, Polymer Solutions, Mixing Thermodynamics