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Journal of Chemistry
Volume 2013, Article ID 864926, 13 pages
Research Article

Controlling Foam Morphology of Poly(methyl methacrylate) via Surface Chemistry and Concentration of Silica Nanoparticles and Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Process Parameters

Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, USA

Received 16 February 2013; Accepted 29 April 2013

Academic Editor: Ignacio Gracia Fernández

Copyright © 2013 Deniz Rende et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Polymer nanocomposite foams have received considerable attention because of their potential use in advanced applications such as bone scaffolds, food packaging, and transportation materials due to their low density and enhanced mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties compared to traditional polymer foams. In this study, silica nanofillers were used as nucleating agents and supercritical carbon dioxide as the foaming agent. The use of nanofillers provides an interface upon which CO2 nucleates and leads to remarkably low average cell sizes while improving cell density (number of cells per unit volume). In this study, the effect of concentration, the extent of surface modification of silica nanofillers with CO2-philic chemical groups, and supercritical carbon dioxide process conditions on the foam morphology of poly(methyl methacrylate), PMMA, were systematically investigated to shed light on the relative importance of material and process parameters. The silica nanoparticles were chemically modified with tridecafluoro-1,1,2,2-tetrahydrooctyl triethoxysilane leading to three different surface chemistries. The silica concentration was varied from 0.85 to 3.2% (by weight). The supercritical CO2 foaming was performed at four different temperatures (40, 65, 75, and 85°C) and between 8.97 and 17.93 MPa. By altering the surface chemistry of the silica nanofiller and manipulating the process conditions, the average cell diameter was decreased from to μm, whereas, the cell density was increased from to cells/cm3. Our findings indicate that surface modification of silica nanoparticles with CO2-philic surfactants has the strongest effect on foam morphology.