We have all felt the unpleasant prickle of a static electric shock. This build up of uncontrolled electrostatic electricity can be catastrophic when experienced at an industrial plant, potentially causing explosions, devastating fires or even fatalities.
Research being undertaken by Amrita Poyekar at the IITB-Monash Research Academy is looking at developing and improving materials. The newly engineered materials will prevent undesired charge accumulation through electrostatic charge dissipation, thereby eliminating the risk of an electrical charge causing damage. This material could then be used in personal safety equipment, such as shoes and gloves as a preventative safety measure.
Currently available polymer blends (that contain conducting filler) require a high concentration of expensive filler. These may also hamper some of the mechanical properties of the polymers in the presence of a high concentration of conductive fillers. Poyekar’s research studies the dispersion of Multiwall Carbon Nanotubes (“MWNTs”) and their behaviour in polymer blends. By studying the behaviour of MWNTs under different processing conditions and surface modifying agents, this research is seeking to determine how to reduce their concentration in material blends without compromising the properties of the material.
The research being undertaken by Amrita Poyekar is under the guidance of Professors Arup R Bhattacharyya and Ajay S Panwar (from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India) and Professor George P Simon (from Monash University, Australia). IITB-Monash Research Academy is a Joint Venture between the IITB and Monash. Opened in 2008, the IITB-Monash Research Academy is a graduate research school located in Mumbai that aims at enhancing research collaborations between Australia and India. Students study for a dual PhD from both institutions, and spend time during their research in both India and Australia.
“This project has a crucial role to play in terms of establishing a greater understanding in the field of carbon nanotube-polymer composites. It is quite challenging to study the effect of various parameters simultaneously such as: blend composition, processing protocols, non-covalent modifiers for MWNTs and compatibilizer. In order to separate the effects of each component a great deal of analysis has been involved in the study. In order to get an accurate and precise idea of the variations in the morphology, dispersion of MWNTs and crystallization behaviour of the polymer component, sophisticated characterization techniques are used to make sure high quality data can be obtained, which are able to probe these systems at an appropriate nanoscale” Poyekar reflects.
This study has both theoretical and practical application. By understanding what factors influence the dispersion of MWNTs in polymer blends, scientists can improve how they fabricate composite materials and also design new engineering materials for practical use, such as those that control electrostatic electricity discharge. Furthermore, the polymer blends can be used in various high-end applications such as dissipative hoses for electronic gadgets and also automotive and electronic applications. The impact of the cost reduction of fabrication may encourage manufacturers to prefer the use of these polymer composites with carbon nanotubes in production.
The greatest benefit is by far the potential to improve the safety of workers in a variety of industries, including those working in refineries and factories. The benefits to personal safety may also extend to those working in laboratories, and even more generally in households.
Research Scholar: Amrita V Poyekar, IITB-Monash Research Academy
Project Title: Dispersion and confinement of multiwall carbon nanotubes in immiscible polymer blends
Supervisors: Professor Arup R Bhattacharyya, Professor Ajay S Panwar, Professor George P Simon
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The above story was written by Ms Rakhee Ghelani based on inputs from the research student and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.