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Nanocomposite Synthesis

SRI researchers study the design and synthesis and nanocomposites—materials that contain some elements that are less than 100 nanometers in size. Nanocomposite materials can be stronger than steel and as light as cardboard, offering a wide range of applications.

Our work focuses primarily on polymeric and ceramic nanocomposites:

Polymeric Nanocomposites

SRI has conceived and patented a chemistry platform to obtain stable nanocomposites consisting of homogeneously dispersed inorganic nanoparticles in polymeric materials. The platform is based on covalently bonding the nanoparticles to various polymeric hosts. The generic technique allows high-volume loading of nanoparticles without agglomeration.

In an R&D program performed for a commercial client, SRI demonstrated its concept for refractive index engineering by embedding titania nanoparticles into various polymeric hosts. For example, the approach was used to efficiently form 1D photonic crystals. It can be extended to many other structural and functional applications.

Ceramic Nanocomposites

SRI’s long-term leading position in the field of preceramic polymers and polymer-derived ceramics (PDCs) has led to various simple approaches for embedding nanostructural domains in ceramic hosts. The generic approach consists of in situ generation of the nanodomains from a completely amorphous stage of polymer-derived ceramic, ceramic-carbon, or ceramic-metal compositions.

SRI has recently focused on assessing the characteristics of graphene-embedded ceramics, in which the graphene content is varied by simple synthetic means for controlling the amount of organic groups incorporated into the preceramic polymers. The organic groups are then converted efficiently into homogeneously dispersed nano-domains with particle sizes in the range of 5 to 10 nm. Similar synthetic approaches may be used for embedding metallic nano-domains in ceramic matrices.