Open Access

Structural properties of batch foamed acrylonitrile butadiene styrene/nanoclay nanocomposites

  • Bashar Azerag1,
  • Taher Azdast1Email author,
  • Ali Doniavi1,
  • Sajjad Mamaghani Shishavan1 and
  • Richard Eungkee Lee2
International Journal of Mechanical and Materials Engineering201510:19

https://doi.org/10.1186/s40712-015-0045-8

Received: 15 March 2015

Accepted: 19 July 2015

Published: 6 August 2015

Abstract

Background

Present study investigates the effect of adding nanoclay particles and foaming conditions on cellular properties of ABS/Nanoclay nanocomposite foams.

Methods

For this purpose, first nanocomposite components are mixed using a twin-screw extruder. The amount of added nanoclay is considered 2 and 4 percentage by weight. Also, poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA) with the percentages of 2 and 4 wt% are used as the compatibilizer. Distribution of nanoclay particles in ABS matrix is examined using X-ray diffraction test. Then, nanocomposite samples are produced using injection molding process and foamed using batch foaming process. CO2 gas is used as the physical blowing agent of the foaming process. The saturation time of samples and the effect of adding of nanoclay on CO2 sorption/desorption rate was assessed by gravimetric method prior to foaming experiments. Then, nanocomposite samples are foamed under different process conditions according to a Taguchi L9 orthogonal array.

Results

The obtained results reveal that adding nanoclay increases the cell density and decreases both foam density and cell size of ABS/nanoclay composite foams compared to the pure ABS foams.

Conclusions

Results show that the structural properties of nanocomposite foams depend on both processing parameters and percentage of nanoclay in the nanocomposite specimens.

Keywords

ABS Clay Nanocomposite Foam Batch Microcellular Taguchi

Background

Foaming is the creation of tiny bubbles into a polymer structure using gas penetration and solution as the physical blowing agent into the polymer matrix, and it is also the creation of a thermodynamic instability by reducing pressure and increasing temperature. Microcellular foams are defined as foams with a cell diameter lower than 10 μm and cell density more than 1010 cells/cm3 (Jacobs et al. 2008). The cell radius of microcellular foams is less than the natural critical crack of a polymer; therefore, polymer weight can be reduced without having a negative effect on mechanical properties compared to traditional foams. Martini and Suh at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981 introduced microcellular foams as a means to reduce the amount of plastic materials without sacrificing their functionality (Martini 1981). Batch microcellular foaming contains a saturated sample under non-reaction gas pressure in reservoir pressure until equilibrium gas concentration is achieved. Then the pressure is discharged, and samples are immersed in hot oil with temperatures approaching the transition temperature of the polymer. There is no doubt that foam expansion continues until polymer viscosity increases or all available supercritical fluid is used. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2) are the most common supercritical fluids in the microcellular foaming process used as physical blowing agents. They are eco-friendly, non-toxic, cheap, and abundant. However, the permeability and solubility of CO2 in the polymers are higher than those of N2, and the supercritical parameters of CO2 are easily available (Tc = 31.1 °C, Pc = 73.8 bar) (James et al. 2005; Lee et al. 2007). Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is an amorphous co-polymer wherein acrylonitrile brings chemical resistance and heat stability, butadiene brings toughness, and styrene provides good processing characteristics. The foamed polymers’ structure including nanoparticles as nanofillers has been improved with reduced flammability properties, reduced gas permeability, increased strength-to-weight ratio, increased impact resistance, long fatigue life, and better thermal and electrical insulation properties compared to unfoamed polymers. Nanofillers can be used as a nucleation agent in the gas foaming process, but they are also known to promote the heterogeneous nucleation of extra cells during foaming; hence, polymer/clay nanocomposite foams are usually characterized by a small cell size and high cell density (James et al. 2005). Okamoto et al. used organically modified layered silicates as nucleating agents to produce polypropylene (pp)/clay composites (Okamoto et al. 2001). Yeh et al. studied the effect of dispersion capability of organoclay on cellular structure and physical properties of poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA)/clay nanocomposite foams and demonstrated that the well-dispersed clay particles in the polymer matrix cause an increase in cell density, a decrease in cell size, and also an increase in mechanical strength of PMMA/clay nanocomposite foams (Yeh et al. 2009). Mamaghani Shishavan et al. studied the mechanical properties and composition capability of ABS/PMMA/clay nanocomposites and showed that ABS and clay nanoparticles with PMMA could be compounded and their mechanical properties are stronger than those of the pure ABS (Mamaghani Shishavan et al. 2014). Urbanczyk et al. studied the batch foaming of Styrene Acrylonitrile/clay nanocomposites with CO2 gas and illustrated that adding nanoparticles significantly increases the cell density, from 8.5 × 1011 cells/cm3 for pure SAN foam, to 3.6 × 1012 cells/cm3 for the intercalated nanocomposite and 7.6 × 1013 cells/cm3 for SAN containing the exfoliated clay. Therefore, the nanoclay clearly acts as an effective heterogeneous nucleating agent (Urbanczyk et al. 2010). Papers were also found on ABS foams which were produced by supercritical fluid CO2. An article by Murray et al. has examined batch foaming conditions of ABS with CO2 (Murray et al. 2000). Kamran et al. studied the mechanical and microstructural properties of microcellular foams of ABS composites with CO2 (Beydokhti et al. 2006).

The current study was carried out in order to determine the effect of adding nanoclay and foaming conditions on the structural properties of ABS/PMMA/clay nanocomposite foams such as foam density, foam expansion ratio, cell density, and cell size. For this purpose, the amount of nanoclay and processing parameters including foaming temperature, saturation pressure, and foaming time were considered in three levels (low, medium, high), and then a design of experiments was performed using the Taguchi design of experiments approach. After physically mixing the ABS and nanoclay and also PMMA as the compatibilizer, a co-rotating twin-screw extruder was used to produce ABS/nanoclay pellets. In order to examine compounding of ABS and nanoclay particles, an X-ray diffraction (XRD) test was conducted. Nanocomposite samples were then prepared using injection molding process. Afterwards, they were foamed by batch foaming process using CO2 gas as the physical blowing agent. Cell density and cell size of foamed samples were calculated using the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images of foamed samples.

Methods

Nanocomposite preparation

In this study, ABS co-polymer with commercial grade of Starex SD0150, with the specifications presented in Table 1, was used as the polymeric matrix of the experimentations. Montmorillonite clay with the trade name Cloisite 30B modified with a quaternary ammonium salt from Southern Clay Products, Inc. has been used as nanofillers. PMMA was also used as the compatibilizer (Mamaghani Shishavan et al. 2014; Saraeian et al. 2012). The melt intercalation method was applied to prepare ABS/PMMA/clay nanocomposite (APCN) materials. Therefore, to prepare nanocomposites with varying amounts of nanoclay (2 and 4 wt%) (Mamaghani Shishavan et al. 2014; Singh and Ghosh 2014), first, a masterbatch containing 800 g ABS, 100 g PMMA, and 100 g Cloisite 30B was dried by being placed and kept in an oven heated to 85 °C for 2 h. Then, a Collin twin-screw extruder with a length-to-diameter ratio of 45 was used to mix the nanocomposite components. In order to prepare the nanocomposite granules with the proportions mentioned above, the obtained masterbatch was diluted with the required amounts of ABS. The processing temperature and screw speed of the extruder were adjusted at 190 °C and 250 rpm, respectively. Finally, in order to produce APCN samples, the prepared granules were injected into a mold cavity according to the tensile strength standard of ASTM: D638-10 (Mamaghani Shishavan et al. 2014). Nanocomposite samples were injected at the processing parameters of 132 MPa injection pressure, 80 °C mold temperature, 15 s cooling time, 132 MPa holding pressure, and 6 s holding pressure time. In order to ensure the distribution of nanoclay particles in the polymer matrix, the obtained masterbatch and purchased nanoclay powder were scanned with an XRD machine at a scanning rate of 2° per minute and wavelength of 1.5602 Å. Clay and organoclay showed a characteristic peak in XRD analysis due to their regular layered structures. The first peak was indicative of platelet separation or d-spacing in clay structure. XRD pattern graphs for Cloisite 30B and nanocomposite masterbatch are shown in Figs. 1 and 2, respectively. The X-ray diffraction results are also listed in Table 2, and d-spacing of nanoclay layers was computed by Bragg’s law as follows:
Table 1

Characteristics of the ABS used in the present study

Property

Unit

Test method

Typical value

Melt flow index (200 °C/5 kg)

gr/10 min

ASTM D-1238

1.7

Izod impact strength (notched)

Kgf.cm/cm

ASTM D-256

22

Vicat softening yield

°C

ASTM D-1525

99

Tensile strength at yield

Kgf/cm2

ASTM D-638 (5 mm/min)

440

Elongation at break

%

ASTM-638 (5 mm/min)

40

Rockwell hardness (at 23 °C)

R. scale

ASTM D-785

104

Density

gr/cm3

Archimedes

1.04

Fig. 1

X-ray diffraction diagram for Cloisite 30B

Fig. 2

X-ray diffraction diagram for nanocomposite masterbatch

Table 2

XRD results for ABS/PMMA/clay nanocomposites

Samples

2θ (deg)

d-spacing (nm)

Cloisite 30B

6

1.49

ABS/PMMA/clay

5.3

1.7

$$ n\lambda =2d \sin \theta $$
(1)
where n is an integer, λ is the wave length of the encountered X-ray beam, θ is the X-ray angle related to dispersion planes that is measured as the diffraction angle, and d is the distance between each of the two planes. Any change in the inner layer or d-spacing of the clay lattice by polymer interaction affects the position, wideness, and intensity of the characteristic peak in XRD spectra. According to Bragg’s law, increasing d-spacing results in the broadening and shifting of the related XRD peak toward lower diffraction angles (2θ). By monitoring the position (2θ) of the characteristic peak in the nanocomposite structure, it is possible to determine the degree of intercalation/exfoliation. As presented in Table 2, while the diffraction peak of Cloisite 30B still exists in the XRD pattern graph, due to melt compounding of the clay into the ABS co-polymer, the distance between each layer of Cloisite 30B nanoclay is increased about 0.21 nm. Actually, as shown in Fig. 1, the characteristic peak of Cloisite 30B nanoclay appeared at 2θ = 6° corresponding to the inner layer space; the d-spacing of clay layers is around 1.49 nm. To ensure the nanoclay dispersion on the ABS matrix, another XRD test was accomplished on 10 wt % masterbatch (Fig. 2). As Fig. 2 represents, there is a montmorillonite diffraction peak on 2θ = 5.3° that is shifted to lower than 6°, and the nanoclay d-spacing increases to about 1.7 nm. This indicates that ABS chains are intercalated between the clay layers. Therefore, it is concluded that the nanoclay particles in the ABS matrix of the prepared masterbatch have an intercalated dispersion mode. After that, to survey nanoclay dispersion mode in APCN materials with 2 and 4 wt %, the XRD test was executed on pure ABS and APCN specimens that are shown in Fig. 3.
Fig. 3

XRD patterns of (a) pure ABS, (b) APCN with 2 wt%, and (c) APCN with 4 wt%

According to Fig. 3, by comparing the pattern of pure ABS and compounded samples, it is concluded that three XRD patterns are almost analogous and there is not any diffraction peak of Cloisite 30B in the range of 0°–10°. Generally, it is investigated that privation of the diffraction peak is due to the exfoliated structure and peak shift toward a lower value of 2θ is due to the intercalated structure. The lack of diffraction peak means that the distance between the silicate layer of the nanoclay is increased and a considerable amount of ABS co-polymer has been inserted into the gallery space during melt compounding. This consequence proves that the APCN samples are successfully combined in a more exfoliated and less intercalated dispersion mode (Mamaghani Shishavan et al. 2014).

CO2 absorbency in APCNs

In order to determine the volume of absorbed CO2, the loss rate of CO2 gas, and saturation time, the CO2 sorption/desorption experiments have been performed using an ex situ gravimetric method called mass-loss analysis. To determine the rate of gas sorption, first, APCN samples were saturated by CO2 at certain pressure and room temperature for a determined sorption time. Then, the pressure was released and the saturated samples were promptly weighted by accurate balance (Mettler Toledo AG204, precision 0.0001 g) at room temperature. To determine the rate of gas desorption, saturated samples were weighted quickly after the discharge pressure in different times. The nanoclay effect on CO2 absorption/desorption rates was also examined. The weight percentage of CO2 absorbed at saturation time (W gas, t) can be calculated from the sample weight at the same time (W t) and the initial sample weight (W i) according to the Eq. 2.
$$ {W}_{\mathrm{gas},\mathrm{t}}=\frac{W_{\mathrm{t}}-{W}_{\mathrm{i}}}{W_{\mathrm{i}}}\times 100 $$
(2)

Design of experiments

In order to study the influence of effective factors including processing parameters and nanoclay percentage on structural properties of foamed samples, the Taguchi approach has been chosen in the design of the experiments of this study. Statistical software, Minitab16.2, is used in order to obtain the optimal levels of process parameters and nanoclay amount. The best set of factor combination could be determined using the signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio. Furthermore, the analysis of variance (ANOVA) method has been applied in order to calculate the percentage contribution of the variable factors. Process parameters such as saturation pressure, foaming time, foaming temperature, and weight percentage of the nanoclay were considered in three levels according to Table 3. Then APCN samples were foamed according to Table 4 based on a Taguchi L9 orthogonal array.
Table 3

Levels of process parameters and nanoclay percentage

Process parameters

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Nanoclay (wt%)

0

2

4

Saturation pressure (MPa)

3

4

5

Foaming temperature (°C)

80

100

120

Foaming time (s)

20

60

100

Table 4

Foaming experiments of this research

Trials

Nanoclay (wt%)

Saturation pressure (MPa)

Foaming temperature (°C)

Foaming time (s)

1

0

3

80

20

2

0

4

100

60

3

0

5

120

100

4

2

3

100

100

5

2

4

120

20

6

2

5

80

60

7

4

3

120

60

8

4

4

80

100

9

4

5

100

20

Foaming process

The microcellular foaming process consists of three steps: gas absorption, nucleation, and cell growth. In the first stage, the polymeric sample is placed in a chamber pressurized by a gas as physical blowing agent at ambient temperature. The gas molecules diffuse into the polymer matrix and continue until the polymer is completely saturated with the gas. After saturation, gas absorption is interrupted and the gas distribution becomes uniform. Typically, gas sorption takes several hours or days to saturate a thin plastic sheet. Saturation time depends on the plastic materials, gas diffusivity in the plastic, sample thickness, saturation temperature, and saturation pressure.

Afterward, to ensure about the samples’ saturation completion, the gas pressure dropped to ambient pressure, and then the saturated sample was placed in a liquid bath at a certain temperature. The thermodynamic instability, which occurred due to this sudden decrease in pressure and increase in temperature, causes thousands of cell nucleation (Colton and Suh 1987). Cell development can be controlled by adjusting the foaming temperature and foaming time.

APCN foams were prepared using solid-state foaming technology as shown in Fig. 4. Firstly, samples were saturated with CO2 gas as physical blowing agent at ambient temperature for 120 h under a certain pressure, i.e., saturation pressure. In the next step, the pressure discharge and samples were immediately removed from the vessel pressure. Foam expansion was inducted by immersion of the saturated sample in the hot oil (glycerol) at a certain temperature (foaming temperature) and time (foaming time). Finally, foam structure was stabilized by cooling in ice/water solution. The saturation pressure, foaming temperature, and foaming time values were considered as presented in Table 4.
Fig. 4

Batch foaming method used to prepare APCN foam

Foam characterization

The density of the foamed and unfoamed samples was measured by the Archimedes method as follows: Assume that a vessel containing water with a density of ρ w is placed on a precision scale. If a sample with a mass of M f and volume of V f is immersed in water in such a way that the whole surface of the sample is covered by water, the scale will indicate the change in the mass (i.e., ΔM). When the sample is submerged, ΔM is equal to the weight of water that is displaced. The density is calculated from the Eq. 3 by reading the change in the mass from the scale when the sample has been submerged. The water density, ρ w, is clear and the samples’ mass, M f, is measured before submergence. Then, for APCN foam samples of each experiment, density, relative density (ρ f/ρ s) where ρ f and ρ s are the foamed and solid sample densities, respectively, and the percentage of volume expansion are calculated.
$$ {\rho}_f=\frac{M_{\mathrm{f}}}{V_{\mathrm{f}}}=\frac{{\mathrm{M}}_{\mathrm{f}}}{\varDelta M}\times {\rho}_{\mathrm{w}} $$
(3)
APCN foam porosity was observed by SEM (TESCAN MIRA3-FEG). To prepare specimens for SEM observation, the samples were dipped into liquid nitrogen and immediately fractured. Then, they were coated by gold. Image analysis was manually executed on the basis of SEM pictures by measuring the cells’ size. Cell density (N cell) relative to the unfoamed polymer is estimated according to Eq. 4 as shown below:
$$ {N}_{\mathrm{cell}}={\left(\frac{n{M}^2}{A}\right)}^{\raisebox{1ex}{$3$}\!\left/ \!\raisebox{-1ex}{$2$}\right.}\times \frac{\rho_{\mathrm{s}}}{\rho_{\mathrm{f}}} $$
(4)
where n is the number of cells in the SEM picture, M is the magnification size, A is the surface area of the picture (cm2), and ρ s and ρ f are the solid and foamed sample densities, respectively (Zhai et al. 2006).

Results and discussion

CO2 solubility and diffusivity in APCN

In order to determine the saturation time for the foaming process, CO2 diffusivity in APCN samples has been studied. CO2 solubility values were extracted from CO2 sorption/desorption curves that were dependent on the saturation pressure. The nanoclay effect on sorption/desorption rates also was assessed. CO2 sorption curves for pure ABS and different APCN samples at saturation pressures of 3 and 5 MPa are shown in Fig. 5. According to Fig. 5, maximum CO2 sorption values related to polymer weight in pure ABS at saturation pressures of 3 and 5 MPa are 108 and 165 mg/g, respectively, while in the same situation, for APCN samples, these values (i.e., maximum CO2 sorption) were a little bit lower than the pure ABS samples. In fact, in a constant saturation pressure, the CO2 sorption does not change dramatically with an increase in the amount of nanoclay percentage. Results also reveal that when the saturation pressure increases, the gas uptake is dramatically increased. Although the saturation time was obtained about 100 h from the figures, it is considered 120 h in experimentations to ensure that the samples are fully saturated.
Fig. 5

CO2 sorption curves for pure ABS and APCN materials at saturation pressures of 3 and 5 MPa

Furthermore, prior to the foaming process, the CO2 desorption rate of the samples was also obtained in the present study. For this purpose, first, pure ABS and APCN samples were saturated at a saturation pressure of 5 MPa and saturation time of 120 h. Then, the pressure was released and the samples have been weighted for 25 h (i.e., 1500 min) and in certain time intervals. Figure 6 shows the desorption behavior of the samples. According to Fig. 6, adding nanoclay to pure ABS cannot act as a barrier to the CO2 exit and, consequently, will not change the desorption rate of CO2 significantly.
Fig. 6

Desorption curve at saturation pressure of 5 MPa and saturation time of 25 h

Structural properties of the foamed samples

Foam density

Densities of the unfoamed pure ABS and APCN samples are presented in Table 5. Obtained foam properties including foam density, relative density, and expansion ratio for each trial of the current experiments are presented in Table 6. Also, signal-to-noise (S/N) ratios for different levels of parameters are obtained according to Table 7 using Minitab software. In addition, S/N ratio diagrams for process parameters and nanoclay entity are shown in Fig. 7.
Table 5

Densities of the unfoamed samples

Sample

Density (g/cm3)

Pure ABS

1.04

ABS with 2 wt% nanoclay

1.09

ABS with 4 wt% nanoclay

1.123

Table 6

Results of foam properties for each trial of this study

Trial no.

Foam density (g/cm3)

Relative density

Expansion ratio

T1

0.522

0.501

1.99

T2

0.830

0.796

1.25

T3

0.802

0.769

1.30

T4

0.617

0.566

1.77

T5

0.572

0.525

1.91

T6

0.604

0.555

1.80

T7

0.764

0.600

1.66

T8

0.420

0.374

2.67

T9

0.796

0.709

1.41

Table 7

The response table of S/N ratios for sample density

Parameters

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Nanoclay percentage

3.063

4.474

4.311

Saturation pressure

4.424

4.675

2.750

Foaming temperature

5.848

2.606

3.394

Foaming time

4.160

3.146

4.545

Fig. 7

S/N ratio diagram of different parameters for sample density

Analysis of variance for foam density of samples calculated using Minitab is presented in Table 8, where f is the degrees of freedoms, s is the sum of squares, v is the variance, and P % is the percentage contribution of each parameter (Tang et al. 2007).
Table 8

ANOVA table for foam density

Parameter

f

s

v

P%

Nanoclay percentage

2

23.4 × 10−3

11.7 × 10−3

15

Saturation pressure

2

33 × 10−3

16.5 × 10−3

21

Foaming temperature

2

85.9 × 10−3

42.95 × 10−3

55

Foaming time

2

14.3 × 10−3

7.15 × 10−3

9

Pooled error

0

0

0

Total

8

156.6 × 10−3

100

One important result that could be obtained from Fig. 7 is the optimum condition of the foaming process with regard to the foam density. As Fig. 7 depicts, foamed samples in the condition of nanoclay percentage of 2 wt %, saturation pressure of 4 MPa, foaming temperature of 80 °C, and foaming time of 100 s have minimum density and, consequently, maximum expansion ratio. Besides this, as shown in Table 8, regarding the foam density, the most effective parameter is foaming temperature with a percentage contribution of 55 %. The optimum foaming temperature of 80 °C is slightly lower than the ABS transition temperature (i.e., 99 °C). When CO2 dissolves in many polymers, it acts as lubricant; therefore, the chain mobility increases and the polymer glass transition temperature decreases. Because of this phenomenon, the sorption/desorption rate is increased. These results are consistent with the reported findings of Laetitia et al. They studied the batch foaming of SAN/clay and showed that the CO2 sorption/desorption rate reduces for nanocomposites with two kinds of clay nanocomposites, exfoliated clay and intercalated clay. Also, exfoliated clay has a lower sorption/desorption rate due to the perfect dispersion (Urbanczyk et al. 2010). Finally, under the obtained optimal foaming conditions, a confirmation test was performed. The result of the optimal APCN foamed sample is shown in Table 9. As the results show, a larger decrease in the foam density and consequently larger increase in expansion ratio could be obtained in comparison with all foam results obtained from this study (i.e., results in Table 6).
Table 9

Results of confirmation test for optimal condition

Nanoclay (wt%)

Density (g/cm3)

Relative density

Expansion ratio

2

0.348

0.319

3.13

Figure 8 shows the interaction plot of processing factors for the samples’ density. A noticeable result that could be obtained from Fig. 8 is the fact that at medium level of nanoclay percentage (i.e., 2 wt %, which is the optimum level), the foam density does not change significantly with various amounts of processing parameters.
Fig. 8

Interaction plot of processing parameters for sample density

Cell density

In this study, in order to determine cell density of pure ABS and APCN foams, SEM tests were conducted. Captured SEM images are shown in Fig. 9. The calculated cell density from the SEM pictures of each trial is shown in Table 10. Using analysis of Minitab software, the S/N ratio diagram for nanoclay amount and process parameters were obtained and presented in Fig. 10. The optimal foaming conditions and nanoclay amount could be achieved from the S/N ratio graph of Fig. 10. According to Fig. 10, the optimal foaming condition regarding the maximum cell density occurs at a nanoclay percentage of 2 wt %, saturation pressure of 4 MPa, foaming temperature of 80 °C, and foaming time of 20 s.
Fig. 9

SEM micrographs of the foamed samples for each trial of this study

Table 10

Results of cell density for foamed samples

Trials

Number of counted cells

Image magnification

Cell density(cells/cm3)

T1

90

5000

5.19 × 1010

T2

950

4860

1.098 × 1012

T3

10

500

1.25 × 106

T4

90

489

4.3 × 107

T5

1900

5000

4.82 × 1012

T6

1800

5000

4.2 × 1012

T7

37

530

1.2 × 107

T8

1100

5010

2.99 × 1012

T9

1600

5010

2.77 × 1012

Fig. 10

S/N ratio graphs of process parameters for cell density

After finding the optimum condition for cell density, a confirmation test based on this condition was also performed. The calculated cell density from the SEM pictures of this confirmation test is shown in Table 11. In order to observe the effect of the nanoclay on cell density, a comparison of the cell density of the optimal foamed sample (i.e., ABS with 2 wt % nanoclay) with the cell density of the pure ABS and ABS with 4 wt % nanoclay was performed (Table 11). The comparison reveals that an improvement of about 75 % could be achieved in the cell density of foamed samples. Therefore, we can affirm that the nanoclay induces the heterogeneous nucleation agent in the nanocomposite samples’ foaming process.
Table 11

Cell density results of the confirmation test

Conditions

Results

Nanoclay (wt%)

Saturation pressure (MPa)

Foaming temperature (°C)

Foaming time (s)

Image magnification

Number of counted cells

Foam density (g/cm3)

Cell density (cells/cm3)

0

4

80

20

30,000

37

0.478

3.2 × 1012

2 (optimal)

4 (optimal)

80 (optimal)

20 (optimal)

30,000

43

0.354

5.6 × 1012

4

4

80

20

30,000

40

0.42

4.5 × 1012

In the next step of our research work, in order to obtain the contribution percentage of the effect of each parameter on the cell density, the analysis of variance for the cell density of APCN foams was calculated and is presented in Table 12. According to Table 12, regarding the cell density, the most effective factors are saturation pressure and nanoclay percentage with percentage contribution (i.e., P %) of 52.33 and 30.2 %, respectively. In other words, nanoclay particles can incredibly increase the cell density of foamed samples. The interaction of parameters for the cell density of samples was also studied and then presented in Fig. 11. Regarding the effect of nanoclay content on the cell density of foamed samples, it is concluded from Fig. 11 that at low levels of saturation pressure (i.e., 3 MPa), adding nanoclay did not affect the cell density, while at higher amounts of saturation pressure (i.e., 4 and 5 MPa), adding nanoclay significantly affected the cell density of the foamed samples. Furthermore, in terms of the effect on cell density, an optimum amount for nanoclay was observed (Fig. 11). In other words, adding nanoclay can influence most significantly the cell density when it is in its medium level (i.e., optimum level of 2 wt %).
Table 12

ANOVA table for foam cell density

Source

f

s

v

P%

Nanoclay

2

9.05 × 1024

4.5 × 1024

30.2

Saturation pressure

2

15.6 × 1024

7.84 × 1024

52.33

Foaming temperature

2

1.57 × 1024

7.89 × 1024

5.26

Foaming time

2

3.66 × 1024

1.83 × 1024

12.21

Pooled error

0

0

Total

8

30 × 1024

100

Fig. 11

Interaction plot of factors for sample cell density

Cell size

In the foaming process, cell size as an important structural property was measured based on the SEM pictures. The findings from the measurement of cell size for each trial of this research are shown in Table 13. These results were analyzed using Minitab software. Using the analysis from Minitab software, the S/N ratio diagram for nanoclay amount and process parameters could be obtained as shown in Fig. 12. According to Fig. 12, the optimal foaming conditions regarding the maximum cell size are the nanoclay percentage of 0 wt % (pure ABS), saturation pressure of 3 MPa, foaming temperature of 120 °C, and foaming time of 100 s. Afterward, nanocomposite samples were foamed under optimal foaming conditions. In order to observe the effect of the nanoclay on cell size, a comparison of the cell size of the optimal foamed sample (i.e., pure ABS) with the cell size of ABS with 2 and 4 wt % nanoclay was performed according to Table 14. The comparison revealed that an increase of about 20 % could be achieved in terms of cell size in foamed samples. According to Table 14, the cell size of foamed samples decreases by adding nanoclay particles. This means that reduction in cell size could be due to the presence of nanoparticles that act as foaming agents which increase the cell numbers and constrain the cell growth. Consequently, the cell size will be decreased.
Table 13

Average cell size results of APCN foams

Trials

Image magnification

Number of the measured cells

Average cell size (μm)

T1

5000

15

4.3

T2

4860

30

0.577

T3

500

6

55.8

T4

489

40

27.5

T5

5000

100

0.41

T6

5000

100

0.35

T7

530

30

48

T8

5010

100

0.87

T9

5010

100

0.152

Fig. 12

S/N ratio graphs of process parameters for cell size

Table 14

Obtained results from confirmation tests for cell size of APCN foams

 

Nanoclay percentage (wt%)

 

0

2

4

Average cell size (μm)

63.63

52.83

59.75

Analysis of variance (ANOVA) for the cell size of nanocomposite foams was performed according to Table 15. As results show, the most effective factors in terms of the cell size increase are foaming temperature, saturation pressure, and foaming time with a percentage contribution of 43.66, 26.13, and 25.8 %, respectively. As it is clear, when foaming temperature and time increase, since the nanocomposite materials are changed more into dough and cells have more time for expansion, the cell size of the foamed samples will be increased. Regarding the foaming pressure, there is also no doubt that by increasing the gas pressure, the amount of the absorbed gas available for expansion will be increased, and consequently, the cell size increases. Results of Table 15 also state that nanoclay wt % has the least effect on cell size increase. In fact, as it is mentioned previously, nanoclay particles can act as the foaming agents that decrease the cell size of nanocomposite foams. The interaction plot of processing factors for cell size of foamed samples is also shown in Fig. 13. As an interesting result, Fig. 13 reveals that at medium level of saturation pressure (4 MPa), low level of foaming temperature (80 °C), and low level of foaming time (20 s), changing the amount of other parameters does not have a considerable effect on the cell size of nanocomposite samples.
Table 15

ANOVA table for APCN foam cell size

Source

f

s

v

P%

Nanoclay (wt%)

2

179.75

89.875

4.41

Saturation pressure (MPa)

2

1065.73

532.865

26.13

Foaming temperature (°C)

2

1780.95

890.475

43.66

Foaming time (s)

2

1052.62

526.31

25.8

Pooled error

0

0

Total

8

4079.04

100

Fig. 13

Interaction plot of processing parameters for sample cell size

Conclusions

In this research work, ABS/PMMA/clay (APCN) nanocomposites with 2 and 4 wt % of nanoclay were prepared. In order to ensure login polymer chains into nanoclay layers, XRD tests were conducted. The results obtained from XRD tests show that the mixing process has been successfully performed. The CO2 sorption/desorption rate into the APCN structure in ambient temperature was assessed. Findings show that effective parameters on foam density reduction are foaming temperature, saturation pressure, nanoclay percentage, and foaming time, respectively. According to obtained results, the nanoclay particles increase cell density. Effective parameters on cell density increase are saturation pressure, nanoclay percentage, foaming time, and foaming temperature, respectively. Also, it was found that nanoclay particles are a barrier to cell size expansion in APCN foams. Effective parameters on cell size are foaming temperature, saturation pressure, foaming time, and nanoclay percentage, respectively. Regarding the foam properties, in this study, nanocomposite foam structural properties including foam density, cell density, and cell size were characterized. As it is mentioned in the manuscript, results show that foaming temperature has the most effect on foam density, especially in temperatures lower than and around polymer transition temperature. Also, it is concluded that saturation pressure has the most effect on cell density. After saturation pressure, added nanoclay as a nucleation agent is the most significant parameter on cell density. On the other hand, results show that nanoclay has the least effect on cell size.

Declarations

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Mechanical Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, Urmia University
(2)
Macro Engineering and Technology Inc.

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Copyright

© Azerag et al. 2015