Polymer, Vol.54, No.16, 4276-4289, 2013
The mechanical properties and toughening mechanisms of an epoxy polymer modified with polysiloxane-based core-shell particles
An epoxy resin, cured using an anhydride hardener, has been modified by the addition of pre-formed polysiloxane core-shell rubber (S-CSR) particles with a mean diameter of 0.18 mu m. The glass transition temperature, T-g, of the cured unmodified epoxy polymer was 148 degrees C, and this was unchanged after the addition of the S-CSR particles. The polysiloxane rubber particles had a T-g of about -100 degrees C. Atomic force microscopy showed that the S-CSR particles were well-dispersed in the epoxy polymer. The addition of the S-CSR particles reduced the Young's modulus and tensile strength of the epoxy polymer, but at 20 degrees C the fracture energy, G(Ic), increased from 117 J/m(2) for the unmodified epoxy to 947 J/m(2) when 20 wt% of the S-CSR particles were incorporated. Fracture tests were also performed at -55 degrees C, -80 degrees C, and -109 degrees C. The results showed that the measured fracture energy of the S-CSR-modified epoxy polymers decreased significantly below room temperature. For example, at -109 degrees C, a fracture energy of 481 J/m(2) was measured using 20 wt% of S-CSR particles. Nevertheless, this value of toughness still represented a major increase compared with the unmodified epoxy polymer, which possessed a value of G(Ic) of 174 J/m(2) at this very low test temperature. Thus, a clear fact that emerged was that the addition to the epoxy polymer of the S-CSR particles may indeed lead to significant toughening of the epoxy, even at temperatures as low as about -100 degrees C. The toughening mechanisms induced by the S-CSR particles were identified as (a) localised plastic shear-band yielding around the particles and (b) cavitation of the particles followed by plastic void growth of the epoxy polymer. These mechanisms were modelled using the Hsieh et al. approach [33,49] and the values of G(Ic) of the S-CSR-modified epoxy polymers at the different test temperatures were calculated. Excellent agreement was found between the predictions and the experimentally measured fracture energies. Further, the experimental and modelling results of the present study indicated that the extent of plastic void growth was suppressed at low temperatures for the S-CSR-modified epoxy polymers, but that the localised shear-band yielding mechanism was relatively insensitive to the test temperature. (C) 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.