Degradation of Nylon-6/Clay Nanocomposites in NO(x)
AIR FORCE RESEARCH LAB EDWARDS AFB CA SPACE AND MISSILE PROPULSION DIV
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Nylon-6 is an important engineering polymer that, in its fully spherulitic bulk form, has many applications in gears, rollers, and other long life cycle components. In 1993, Toyota commercialized a nylon-6clay nanocomposite out of which it produced the timing belt cover for the 1993 Camry. Although these hybrid nanocomposites show significant improvements in their mechanical response characteristics, including yield strength and heat distortion temperature, little is known about the degradation of these properties due to environmental pollutants like NOx. Nylon-6 fibers are severely degraded by interaction with NOx and other pollutants, showing a strong synergism between applied load and environmental degradation. While the nanocomposites show a significant reduction in permeability of gases and water due to the incorporation of lamellar clay, their susceptibility to non-diffusional mechano-chemical degradation is unknown. The fracture toughness of these nylon-6day nanocomposites increases, not as a function of clay content, but as a function of the volume of nylon-6 polymer chains influenced by the clay lamellar surfaces. Both the clay and the constrained volume offer the nanocomposites some protection from the deleterious effects of NOx. The time-to-failure at a given stress intensity factor as a function of clay content and constrained volume will be discussed along with fracture toughness of the materials.