This paper presents a novel method to describe the microstructure of polymer/clay nanocomposites quantitatively. Based on the image analyses of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and optical microscopy micrographs, two parameters, degree of dispersion (χ) and mean interparticle distance per unit volume of clay (λV) are proposed to describe the level of clay dispersion. The degree of dispersion gives the percentage of exfoliation, and λV is a measure of spatial separation between particles relative to clay loading. A polypropylene/clay system was chosen as an example to show the effects of processing conditions and biaxial stretching on clay dispersion using the proposed quantifiers. It provides insights into the 'real' clay dispersion using a combination of both microscopical and macroscopical aspects.
- Image analysis
- Optical microscopy
- Transmission electron microscopy (TEM)