Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Engineering and Applied Science


Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Hui, David; Lau, Kin-tak

Second Advisor

Herrington, Paul

Third Advisor

Kura, Bhaskar

Fourth Advisor

Mattei, Norma Jean

Fifth Advisor

Wei, Dongming


Ten different sets of epoxy samples with compositions from 0wt% to 8wt% nanoclay were prepared by mechanical stirring and then casting to mold dog-bone shape samples for tensile and other tests. A gradual trend of changes upon mechanical, thermal and microstructural behaviors were investigated. Introduction of strip silicates inside the epoxy matrix contributed to higher tensile strength, flexural strength and Vickers' hardness. From tensile tests, the ultimate tensile strength of samples from 0wt% to 8wt% nanoclay ranged from 42MPa to 46MPa. The epoxy samples with 1wt%, 4wt% to 6wt% nanoclay had a stepwise increase in the ultimate tensile strength of 5% when compared with a pure epoxy sample. In general, samples with nanoclay content below 1wt% were ductile, while samples with nanoclay content from 2wt% to 6wt% were in the ductile-brittle transition and developed higher strength than the pure epoxy sample. However, samples with nanoclay content above 7wt% were brittle and the ductility drastically dropped by more than 70% for 8wt% nanoclay sample and the failure was catastrophic. On the other hand, from X-Ray Diffractometry (XRD), it was shown that there was no nanoclay peak shifting in the epoxy matrix. Moreover, it was further verified by Dynamic Mechanical Analyzer (DMA), Thermomechanical Analyzer (TMA) and Thermogravimetric Analyzer (TGA) that there was no significant change of elastic modulus, glass transition, thermal expansion and decomposition temperature in the nanoclay-epoxy samples when compared with that of pure epoxy. Finally, it was found from Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) that as the nanoclay content in the epoxy samples increased, the fracture surfaces were rougher, irregular in shape and broken down into tiny pieces with stress whitened sharp edges. A lot of white spots or white lines which believed to be the nanoclay (strip silicates), were found coming out from the fracture surfaces. As a result, strip silicates reinforced epoxy composites with compositions at 4wt% to 6wt% nanoclay content showed enhanced mechanical properties. However, for ease of casting, the nanoclay content should be kept below 5wt%. Finally, a model is deduced from all the experimental results, which is called a "net" model.


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