Background: Sandwich structures are progressively being used in various engineering applications due to the superior bending-stiffness-to-weight ratio of these structures. We adapted a novel technique to incorporate carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes (POSS) into a sandwich composite structure utilizing a sonochemical and high temperature vacuum assisted resin transfer molding technique.
Objective: The objective of this work was to create a sandwich composite structure comprising of a nanophased foam core and reinforced nanophased face sheets, and to examine the thermal and mechanical properties of the structure. To prepare the sandwich structure, POSS nanoparticles were sonochemically attached to CNTs and dispersed in a high temperature resin system to make the face sheet materials and also coated on expandable thermoplastic microspheres for the fabrication of foam core materials.
Methods: The nanophased foam core was fabricated with POSS infused thermoplastic microspheres (Expancel) using a Tetrahedron MTP-14 programmable compression molder. The reinforced nanophased face sheet was fabricated by infusing POSS coated CNT in epoxy resin and then curing into a compression stainless steel mold.
Results: Thermal analysis of POSS-infused thermoplastic microspheres foam (TMF) showed an increase in thermal stability in both nitrogen and oxygen atmospheres, 19% increase in thermal residue were observed for 4 wt% GI-POSS TMF compared to neat TMF. Quasi-static compression results indicated significant increases (73%) in compressive modulus, and an increase (5%) in compressive strength for the 1 wt% EC-POSS/CNTs resin system. The nanophased sandwich structure constructed from the above resin system and the foam core system displayed an increase (9%) in modulus over the neat sandwich structure.
Conclusion: The incorporation of POSS-nanofillier in the foam core and POSS-coated nanotubes in the face sheet significantly improved the thermal and mechanical properties of sandwich structure. Furthermore, the sandwich structure that was constructed from nanophased resin system showed an increase in modulus, with buckling in the foam core but no visible cracking.