Filler aggregation as a reinforcement mechanism in polymer nanocomposites

Andrea Dorigato, Yuris Dzenis, Alessandro Pegoretti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Significant reinforcing effects that are often observed in polymer nanoparticulate composites are usually attributed to strong interfacial interactions over extended interfaces in these systems. Here, we study linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) reinforced with 1–4% fumed silica nanoparticles. Nanocomposite modulus, evaluated as a function of filler volume fraction, significantly exceeds classical micromechanics predictions. Possible reasons for the observed discrepancy are evaluated experimentally and theoretically. It is concluded that primary nanoparticle aggregation rather than polymer–nanoparticle interaction at the interface is mainly responsible for the observed reinforcement effect. A simple micromechanics-informed model of a composite with primary particle aggregates is presented based on the model of secondary aggregation developed earlier. The model is shown capable of predicting nanocomposites behavior by introducing a single new structural parameter with a straightforward physical interpretation. As nanoparticles are prone to agglomerate, their primary or secondary aggregates may be present in many nanocomposite systems and the aggregation state and its effects need to be thoroughly evaluated, along with the classical interfacial interactions. The described reinforcing mechanism may be responsible for other anomalous property changes in nanoparticulate composites reported in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-90
Number of pages12
JournalMechanics of Materials
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013


  • Elastic modulus
  • Modelling
  • Nanocomposites
  • Polyethylene
  • Silica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Instrumentation
  • General Materials Science


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