The incorporation of nanoparticles into polymers is a design approach that is used in many areas of materials science1,2. The concept is attractive because it enables the creation of materials with new or improved properties by mixing multiple constituents and exploiting synergistic effects. One important technological thrust is the development of structural materials with improved mechanical and thermal characteristics3,4. Equally intriguing is the possibility to design functional materials5 with unique optical6,7 or electronic properties8,9, catalytic activity10 or selective permeation11,12. The broad technological exploitation of polymer nanocomposites is, however, stifled by the lack of effective methods to control nanoparticle dispersion13,14,15. We report a simple and versatile process for the formation of homogeneous polymer/nanofibre composites. The approach is based on the formation of a three-dimensional template of well-individualized nanofibres, which is filled with any polymer of choice. We demonstrate that this template approach is broadly applicable and allows for the fabrication of otherwise inaccessible nanocomposites of immiscible components.
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We thank L. McCorkle, M. Hitomi, H. Kahn and J.D. Mendez for help with the SEM, preparation of ultramicrotomed samples, AFM characterization, and conductivity measurements, respectively. We also thank S. Trittschuh and K. Shanmuganathan for their help with the preparation of cotton cellulose nanocrystals. Generous financial support from the Case School of Engineering (Presidential Research Initiative), the L. Stokes Cleveland VAMC Advanced Platform Technology Center, the Department of Veteran's Affairs Associate Investigator Career Development Program, and NIH under grant number R21NS053798-01 is gratefully acknowledged.
A provisional US patent application on the process used in the paper was filed by Case Western Reserve University.
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Capadona, J., Van Den Berg, O., Capadona, L. et al. A versatile approach for the processing of polymer nanocomposites with self-assembled nanofibre templates. Nature Nanotech 2, 765–769 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2007.379
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