We have prepared polymer nanocomposites reinforced with exfoliated graphene layers solely via melt blending. For this study polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was chosen as the polymer matrix due to its myriad of current and potential applications. PET and PET/graphene nanocomposites were melt compounded on an internal mixer and the resulting materials were compression molded into films. Transmission electron microscopy and scanning electron microscopy revealed that the graphene flakes were randomly orientated and well dispersed inside the polymer matrix. The PET/graphene nanocomposites were found to be characterized by superior mechanical properties as opposed to the neat PET. Thus, at a nanofiller load as low as 0.07 wt%, the novel materials presented an increase in the elastic modulus higher than 10% and an enhancement in the tensile strength of more than 40% compared to pristine PET. The improvements in the tensile strength were directly correlated to changes in elongation at break and indirectly correlated to the fracture initiation area. The enhancements observed in the mechanical properties of polymer/graphene nanocomposites achieved at low exfoliated graphene loadings and manufactured exclusively via melt mixing may open the door to industrial manufacturing of economical novel materials with superior stiffness, strength and ductility.
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