Mechanical Properties and Deformation Behaviour of Polymer Materials during Nanosectioning : Characterisation and Modelling

Abstract: Research in local fracture processes and micro-machining of polymers and polymer-based composites has attracted increasing attention, in development of composite materials and miniaturisation of polymer components. In this thesis, sectioning (machining) of a glassy polymer and a carbon nanotube based composite at the nanoscale was performed by an instrumented ultramicrotome. The yield stresses and fracture toughness of these materials were determined by analysing the sectioning forces. Fractographic analysis by atomic force microscopy was conducted to characterise the topographies and elastic properties of the sectioned surfaces to explore the deformation and fracture behaviour of the polymer during nanosectioning. The study reveals that a transition from homogenous to shear localised deformation occurred as the uncut chip thickness (depth of cut) or sectioning speed increased to a critical value. Analytical and finite element methods were used to model the nanosectioning process. The shear localised deformation was caused by thermal softening due to plastic dissipation. Although not considering sectioning, the tensile properties of a polymer nanocomposite were additionally investigated, where the degree of nanofibrillation and polyethylene glycol (PEG) content had significant effects.