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issue: August 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Nanoclay-Based Compounds
Technology Report

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The new Maxxam(R) LST compounds from PolyOne Corporation (Avon Lake, OH, U.S.) use nanoclay technology to reportedly offer a combination of strength, durability, and dimensional stability.

As shown in the photo on the left, PolyOne's exfoliation process evenly distributes nanoclay particles throughout the resin, allowing for maximum performance of the nanoclay and improved resin processing. A poor exfoliation process, as shown in the photo on the right, decreases nanoclay properties and reduces processability of the resin.

The compounds are designed to meet or exceed the capabilities of many engineered thermoplastics, while offering processing advantages that are inherent to polyolefins, says George Zollos, market development manager for nanocomposites technology at PolyOne Corporation.

Nanoclays are lightweight organo-clay particles that are 200 to 600 nm in width and length, and 1-nm thick. “Nonoclay platelets have a high aspect ration that provides reinforcement properties,” Mr. Zollos says. “The high surface area of the platelets reduces stress concentrations, creating superior impact properties. Nanoclays are used at low-loading ratios, resulting in a lightweight compound with outstanding physical and aesthetic properties.”

The aesthetic properties—including colorability and depth of image—make the compounds ideal for use in appliances such as dishwashers, blenders, mixers, and coffee makers, Mr. Zollos notes. Appliance designers are also using the nanoclay compounds in housings, handles, knobs, and faceplates, among other components, because nanoclays improve the stiffness of the compound without negatively affecting the impact resistance when they are dispersed in a polymer matrix at ratios of 4 to 10 percent, Mr. Zollo says.

“Impact resistance is actually improved along with flexural modulus,” he explains. The nanoclays also provide other benefits such as a higher heat distortion temperature and isotrophic property improvement for dimensional stability. The use of them in the compounds then enables designers to reduce weight and material usage, as well as lower cost through their low-specific gravity (0.90-0.96), thin-wall capability, and processing ease, Mr. Zollos adds.

“The compounds are inherently lightweight, especially when compared with other engineered thermoplastics having specific gravities ranging from 1.05 to 1.40 or greater,” he says. Additionally, he says, the high stiffness and impact properties provided by nanotechnology and high-flow characteristics of the compounds enable appliance engineers to reduce wall thickness while maintaining structural integrity. The isotropic reinforcing properties of nanotechnology also provide the compounds with high stiffness and dimensional stability.

“With the low shrinkage and coefficient of linear thermal expansion (CLTE) values of the compounds, parts can be designed for tight fits and close tolerances,” Mr. Zollos point out. “The combination of properties [in the compounds] enables parts designers to meet demanding application requirements effectively and efficiently—without over-engineering the part or the resin.

“The compounds replace traditional engineered thermoplastics and offer the processing advantages of polyolefins,” he continues. “They replace materials in existing applications currently hindered by performance issues, high costs, or processing difficulties.”


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