Current studies investigating properties of nanoparticle-reinforced polymers have shown that nanocomposites often exhibit improved properties compared to neat polymers. However, over two decades of research, using both experimental studies and modeling analyses, has not fully elucidated the mechanistic underpinnings behind these enhancements. Moreover, few studies have focused on developing an understanding among two or more polymer properties affected by incorporation of nanomaterials. In our study, we investigated the elastic and thermal properties of poly(acrylamide) hydrogels containing silica nanoparticles. Both nanoparticle concentration and size affected hydrogel properties, with similar trends in enhancements observed for elastic modulus and thermal diffusivity. We also observed significantly lower swellability for hydrogel nanocomposites relative to neat hydrogels, consistent with previous work suggesting that nanoparticles can mediate pseudo crosslinking within polymer networks. Collectively, these results indicate the ability to develop next-generation composite materials with enhanced mechanical and thermal properties by increasing the average crosslinking density using nanoparticles.
Zaragoza J, Babhadiashar N, O’Brien V, Chang A, Blanco M, Zabalegui A, et al. (2015) Experimental Investigation of Mechanical and Thermal Properties of Silica Nanoparticle-Reinforced Poly(acrylamide) Nanocomposite Hydrogels. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0136293. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0136293