Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Chair

Jeffrey S. Wiggins

Committee Chair Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Member 2

Robson Storey

Committee Member 2 Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Member 3

Joshua Otaigbe

Committee Member 3 Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Member 4

Sarah Morgan

Committee Member 4 Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Member 5

Sergei Nazarenko

Committee Member 5 Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials


The primary goal of this dissertation is to develop a novel continuous reactor method to prepare partially cured epoxy prepolymers for aerospace prepreg applications with the aim of replacing traditional batch reactors. Compared to batch reactors, the continuous reactor is capable of solubilizing and dispersing a broad range of additives including thermoplastic tougheners, stabilizers, nanoparticles and curatives and advancing epoxy molecular weights and viscosities while reducing energy consumption.

In order to prove this concept, polyethersulfone (PES) modified 4, 4’-diaminodiphenylsulfone (44DDS)/tetraglycidyl-4, 4’-diaminodiphenylmethane (TGDDM) epoxy prepolymers were firstly prepared using both continuous reactor and batch reactor methods. Kinetic studies confirmed the chain extension reaction in the continuous reactor is similar to the batch reactor, and the molecular weights and viscosities of prepolymers were readily controlled through reaction kinetics. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) confirmed similar cured network morphologies for formulations prepared from batch and continuous reactors. Additionally tensile strength, tensile modulus and fracture toughness analyses concluded mechanical properties of cured epoxy matrices produced from both reactors were equivalent.

Effects of multifunctional epoxy compositions on thermoplastics phase-separated morphologies were systematically studied using a combination of AFM with nanomechanical mapping, spectroscopic and calorimetric techniques to provide new insights to tailor cured reaction induced phase separation (CRIPS) in multifunctional epoxy blend networks. Furthermore, how resultant crosslinked glassy polymer network and phase-separated morphologies correlated with mechanical properties are discussed in detail.

Multiwall carbon nanotube (MWCNT)/TGDDM epoxy prepolymers were further prepared by combining the successful strategies for advancing epoxy chemistries and dispersing nanotubes using the continuous reactor. Optical microscopy (OM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were used to characterize the MWCNT dispersion states and stabilization in epoxy prepolymer matrix after continuous process and during curing cycles. Additionally, electrical conductivities and mechanical properties of final cured MWCNT/TGDDM composites were measured and discussed in view of their corresponding MWCNT dispersion states.

Ternary blends of MWCNT reinforced thermoplastic/epoxy prepolymers were prepared by the continuous reactor. Influence of MWCNT on the CRIPS mechanism and the cured morphologies were systematically investigated using SEM and rheological analysis. Incorporation of MWCNT in thermoplastic/epoxy matrices can lead to a morphological transformation from phase inverted, to co-continuous, and to droplet dispersed morphology. In additional, dynamic mechanical analysis revealed the heterogeneity of MWCNT dispersion in thermoplastic/thermosets systems.