Carbon black self-networking induced co-continuity of immiscible polymer blends
This work aims to clarify the mechanism of nanoparticle-induced co-continuity in immiscible polymer blends. An industrially relevant system, carbon black (CB)-filled acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS)/polyamide 6 (PA6) blends, is investigated via scanning electron microscopy, selective extraction tests, dynamic mechanical analysis, and electrical conductivity measurements. The CB particles are found to be preferentially localized in the PA6 phase, and with an increase in CB loading (Î¦CB), the critical volume fraction of PA6 (Î¦PA6) that is essential for building the co-continuous structure decreases. The product of Î¦PA6 and Î¦CB, n, remains constant for the given system, suggesting that there exists an intrinsic cooperative effect between the CB and the CB-localized polymer phase. A further decrease in Î¦PA6 is achieved either by loading CB with a higher self-networking capability or by isothermal post-treatments for sufficient self-agglomeration of the CB clusters. It is demonstrated that, under the direction of CB self-networking, the CB-localized polymer domains tend to fuse together into co-continuous organization with little phase coarsening. Therefore, CB self-assembly not only plays a key role in extending phase co-continuity over a much larger composition range but also acts on stabilizing the co-continuous polymer domains during the melt processing.