Shear-Induced Microporous Nanocomposite Epoxy Thermosets (MiNET)
To create microporous nanocomposite epoxy thermosets (MiNET), a mixing pathway is demonstrated in which a bicontinuous emulsion gel (bijel) like viscous fluid is kinetically trapped by high shear mixing of immiscible liquids, surfactant, and nanoparticles. The MiNETs are prepared from common ingredients, that are widely employed in industry, including epoxy resin, vegetable oil, epoxidized soybean oil, and different types of nanoparticles such as silica, activated carbon, alumina, and zinc oxide. MiNETs prepared by the presented route are processed at ambient conditions and exhibit low shrinkage (less than 2%). Furthermore, they are suitable to erect macro- to microscale structures with high precision and various porosity. The interconnected porous architecture of MiNET is even preserved in microscale features and thus ensures the mass transport in microstructures. With facile processability and tunability of pore sizes in a wide range (~100 nm to few microns), the proposed route overcomes the two major roadblocks – difficulty in fabrication and large domain size (on the order of 5µm or larger) – of bijel-like materials to apply in catalysis, energy storage, and molecular encapsulation.