The surge of interest in and scientific publications on the structure and properties of nanocomposites has made it rather difficult for the novice to comprehend the physical structure of these new materials and the relationship between their properties and those of the conventional range of composite materials. Some of the questions that arise are: How should the reinforcement volume fraction be calculated? How can the clay gallery contents be assessed? How can the ratio of intercalate to exfoliate be found? Does polymerization occur in the clay galleries? How is the crystallinity of semi-crystalline polymers affected by intercalation? What role do the mobilities of adsorbed molecules and clay platelets have? How much information can conventional X-ray diffraction offer? What is the thermodynamic driving force for intercalation and exfoliation? What is the elastic modulus of clay platelets? The growth of computer simulation techniques applied to clay materials has been rapid, with insight gained into the structure, dynamics and reactivity of polymer-clay systems. However these techniques operate on the basis of approximations, which may not be clear to the non-specialist. This critical review attempts to assess these issues from the viewpoint of traditional composites thereby embedding these new materials in a wider context to which conventional composite theory can be applied.
ASJC Scopus subject areas