Electrochemical Application and AFM Characterization of Nanocomposites : Focus on Interphase Properties

Abstract: The use of graphene and conductive polyaniline nanomaterials in the field of electrochemistry is increasing due to their excellent conductivity, rapid electron transfer and high specific surface area. However, these properties are strongly dependent on the preparation processes. To accelerate the development of advanced electrochemical sensors for the simultaneous detection of trace amounts of heavy metal ions, two facile and green methods are proposed to improve their performance in this thesis. The first one was dedicated to make graphene-carbon nanotube hybrid nanocomposites. The introduction of carbon nanotubes not only greatly enhances the conductivity of graphene but also suppresses, to some degree, the aggregation between graphene nanosheets. Another method proposed in this thesis work was to synthesize a phytic acid doped polyaniline nanofiber based nanocomposite. The synergistic contribution from polyaniline nanofibers and phytic acid enhances the accumulation efficiency and the charge transfer rate of metal ions during the differential pulse anodic stripping voltammetry analysis. The above-mentioned nanocomposite modified electrodes were all successfully applied to real samples for the simultaneous detection of Cd2+ and Pb2+ with good recovery rates. Meanwhile, corrosion protection is another important branch in the field of electrochemistry. In this direction, an active alkyd-polyaniline composite coating with self-healing functionality was prepared. The polyaniline used in this thesis was doped with p-toluene sulfonic acid, which was employed to increase the conductivity of polyaniline, and 1 wt.% of as-prepared polyaniline nanoparticles were found to offer an effective conductive network for anticorrosion. Finally, the reasons that such low loading levels of nanomaterials can result in significantly reinforced properties in nanocomposites were studied with combined atomic force microscopy (AFM) techniques. The results demonstrated that the interphase for a 40-nm-sized silica particle could extend to 55–70 nm in poly(ethyl methacrylate) (PEMA) and poly(isobutyl methacrylate) (PiBMA) polymer matrix, and the interphase exhibited a gradient distribution in surface nanomechanical properties.