2008 NSTI Nanotechnology Conference and Trade Show - Nanotech 2008 - 11th Annual

Partnering Events:

TechConnect Summit
Clean Technology 2008

Introduction to Nanocomposites: Processing, Properties and Characterization

Sunday June 1, 2008, 8:00 am - 6:00 pm, Boston, Massachusetts

Technology Focus

polymer nanocomposites

The focus of this course is the processing and characterization of polymer nanocomposite materials.

Polymer nanocomposites are an early success story of realizing the potential of nanotechnology for improved performance. A brief look at new, common commercial uses reveals automotive panels for sports utility vehicles, polypropylene nanocomposites for furniture, appliances, and bulletin board substrates. Advanced technologies implemented include magnetic media, bone cement, filter membranes, aerogels, and solar cells. Nanocomposites represent one area of nanoscale research that has led to marketable products.

polymers nanotech

Whereas traditional composites use over 40% by weight of reinforcement, nanocomposites may show improvements at less than 5%. More importantly, traditional theories do not account for meaningful change in properties when so little material is replaced. Nanoparticles cannot reinforce differently than microparticles, but traditional theories do not include size dependence. Thus, the mechanics must be understood as arising from load transfer as much as from load bearing. Materials used for nanocomposites can be low technology: soot, ash, and clay. Decades of research have delved into S-glass and graphite fibers or boron nitride whiskers as reinforcements. Viewing the polymer as a mechanical weak link, research has focused on techniques for improving the volume fraction of reinforcement or improving interaction between reinforcements. Nanoparticles drive research in a different direction.


The science and engineering of nanocomposites draws on traditional characterization and processing technologies. Research describing structures containing nanoparticles seems to rely on methods that are being pushed to the limit of resolution. Producing nanocomposites also poses very real processing challenges. The list of questions about the fabrication, characterization, and use of nanocomposites is long--despite massive financial and intellectual investment. The magnitude of the effects these small particles impart to the bulk properties of a composite are great enough that the science is likely to continue to grow in importance. A detailed study of nanocomposites, their structure, processing and characterization will be of value in all walks of engineering life. The goal of this course is to provide a solid foundation for

understanding, and beginning to answer, the questions posed by nanocomposites.

Course Objectives

nanocomposite materials

The intent of this course is to help the student at any stage of a career think about nanocomposites in an integrated manner. Graduates of this course will leave with useful knowledge of the structures and properties of nanocomposite materials. They should have gained a sufficient grasp of the concepts and language to read and understand most research papers in these areas and the majority of technical focus publications. They will be in tune with applying the traditional techniques of composites with new insights for ultra-small particles leading to novel materials. They will have developed the foundation and insight appropriate to developing and marketing these materials.

Course Outline

  • Introduction to nanocomposites - where are they from and where are they going
  • Materials science of nanocomposites - understanding the pieces inside a nanocomposite part
  • Properties of nanocomposites - identifying the property advantages of these interesting materials
  • Particulates - the building blocks of nanocomposites
  • Flow in nanocomposite systems
  • Solvent and in situ polymerization for maximal distribution control
  • Melt processes for high performance parts
  • Structural and distribution characterization - seeing what is too small to be seen
  • Property characterization - realizing the performance of engineered parts

Course Instructor

Thomas Twardowski

Thomas Twardowski, Ph.D., has been working in nanocomposites since 1997 and in composites since 1987. Dr. Twardowski is the author of the recently released Introduction to Nanocomposite Materials: Properties, Processing and Characterization published by DesTech Publications. He is author or co-author of 25 peer reviewed papers and proceedings on composites and nanocomposites. Dr. Twardowski has diverse research experience in composites, adhesives, biomaterials and science education. Sponsors for composites research have included the US Navy, National Science Foundation, NASA, Motorola, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Keystone Innovation program. Dr. Twardowski has taught courses in materials, textiles, chemical, and mechanical engineering. He is currently a visiting professor at Widener University in Chemical Engineering where he is also conducting sponsored research on the effects of reinforcement size on properties and multi-scale composites. He has designed short courses for Polymer Nanocomposites 2007 and for the US Army. He is a reviewer for various foundations and publications. Dr. Twardowski is a past president of the Philadelphia Section of the Society of Plastics Engineers, and a member of ASM International, the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.