The present paper compares improvements to the fracture energy and electrical conductivity of epoxy nanocomposites reinforced by one-dimensional carbon nanofibres (CNFs) or two-dimensional graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs). The focus of this investigation is on the effects of the shape, orientation and concentration (i.e. 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 wt%) of nanoscale carbon reinforcements on the property improvements. Alignment of the nano-reinforcements in the epoxy nanocomposites was achieved through the application of an alternating current (AC) electric-field before gelation and curing of the epoxy resin. Alignment of the nano-reinforcements increased the electrical conductivity and simultaneously lowered the percolation threshold necessary to form a conductive network in the nanocomposites. Nano-reinforcement alignment also increased greatly the fracture energy of the epoxy due to a higher fraction of the nano-reinforcement participating in multiple intrinsic (e.g. interfacial debonding and void growth) and extrinsic (e.g. pull-out and bridging) toughening mechanisms. A mechanistic model is presented to quantify the contributions from the different toughening mechanisms induced by CNFs and GNPs to the large improvements in fracture toughness. The model results show that one-dimensional CNFs are more effective than GNPs at increasing the intrinsic toughness of epoxy via void growth, whereas two-dimensional GNPs are more effective than CNFs at improving the extrinsic toughness via crack bridging and pull-out.
- Electrical conductivity
- Fracture toughness