Cresol Novolac/Epoxy Networks: Synthesis, Properties, and Processability


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Virginia Tech


Void-free phenolic networks have been prepared by the reaction of phenolic novolac resins with various diepoxides. The stoichiometric ratio can be adjusted to achieve networks with good mechanical properties while maintaining excellent flame retardance. A series of linear, controlled molecular weight, 2,6-dimethylphenol endcapped cresol novolac resins have been synthesized and characterized. The molecular weight control was achieved by adjusting the stoichiometric ratio of cresol to 2,6-dimethylphenol and using an excess of formaldehyde. A dynamic equilibrium reaction was proposed to occur which allowed the targeted molecular weight to be obtained.

A 2000 g/mol ortho-cresol novolac resin was crosslinked by a diepoxide oligomer and by an epoxidized phenolic oligomer in defined weight ratios and the structure-property relationships were investigated. The networks comprised of 60 or 70 weight percent cresol novolac exhibited improved fracture toughness, high glass transition temperatures, low water uptake, and good flame retardance. The molecular weights between crosslinks were also determined for these networks. The stress relaxation moduli were measured as a function of temperature near the glass transition temperatures. Crosslink densities as well as the ability to hydrogen bond affect the glassy moduli of these networks. Rheological measurements indicated that cresol novolac/epoxy mixtures have an increased processing window compared to phenolic novolac/epoxy mixtures.

Maleimide functionalities were incorporated into cresol novolac oligomers, and these were crosslinked with bisphenol-A epoxy. The processability of oligomers containing thermally labile maleimides were limited to lower temperatures. However, sufficiently high molecular weight oligomers were necessary to obtain good network mechanical properties. Networks prepared from 1250 g/mol cresol novolac containing maleimide functionilities and epoxy exhibited good network properties and could be processed easily.

Latent triphenylphosphine catalysts which are inert at processing temperatures (~140°C) but possess significant catalytic activity at cure temperatures 180-220°C were necessary for efficient composite fabrication using phenolic novolac/epoxy matrix resins. Both sequestered catalyst particles and sizings were investigated for this purpose. Phenolic novolac/epoxy mixtures containing sequestered catalysts exhibited significantly longer processing time windows than those containing free catalysts. The resins also showed accelerated reaction rates in the presence of sequestered catalysts at cure temperatures. Trihexylamine salt of a poly(amic acid) was sized onto reinforcing carbon fibers and the composite properties indicated that fast phenolic novolac/epoxy cure could be achieved in its presence.



composite, latent catalyst, flame retardance, phenolic, structure-property relationships, epoxy, Cresol novolac, controlled molecular weight