Polymer Nanocomposites: Are There Scientific Questions with No Answers?

Jean-Francois GERARD

INSA, Lyon, France

Nanotechnologies have now become part of our daily lives. Scientific and technological developments dedicated to nano-objects, their manipulation and their integration into nanoscale devices have been the subject of intense activity in recent years. These achievements make it possible for some of them to reach an unprecedented maturity. Considering the nanometric scale allows us to push back many limits that were previously assumed to be insurmountable, due to the fact that, at such a scale, the physical properties do not generally respond to conventional laws.

Thus, by considering new approaches, and particularly by taking nano-objects that are already widely studied into account, nanomaterials can be prepared following unconventional routes or by assembling nanometric blocks in order to provide specific functionalities. Among these nanomaterials, polymer matrix nanocomposites have been the subject of intense research and some industrial developments. Indeed, how can we not expect original synergies that lead to the design of innovative compounds by combining the immense versatility of the physical behaviors of polymers with the great diversity offered by the nano-objects that can be associated with them: 1D to 3D nano-objects, modular interfacial interactions (covalent, Van der Waals, ionic bonds), various manufacturing routes, etc.?

This diversity surely explains the wealth of scientific literature that has been dedicated to nanocomposites over the last two decades. Despite the fact that all polymers have been associated with all types of nano-objects (nanoparticles, nanotubes, nanosheets, etc.), we should acknowledge that relatively few works contribute to our understanding of the elementary phenomena that govern the behavior of polymer matrix nanocomposites. This understanding remains fundamental in developing appropriate approaches that will lead to technological breakthroughs that are deployable on a large scale.

It is, therefore, essential that we work at the crossroads of scientific disciplines, namely chemistry, physical chemistry and physics, nano-/micromechanics of interfaces, modeling the physical properties at all scales (mechanical, electrical/dielectric, transport, etc.), and so on. Of course, in order to propose a pertinent approach, a scientific approach consisting of disciplinary knowledge is required, but their combination is essential to address such a multidisciplinary subject in the most relevant way. Indeed, the field of polymer matrix nanocomposites is quite emblematic since it absolutely requires a sharing of expertise at the borders between disciplines.

This book is a perfect illustration of this cross-fertilization of knowledge and the collaboration between researchers from different backgrounds in order to question and propose new morphologies of polymer nanocomposites, design or modeling approaches, and so on. Therefore, it is with curiosity that we uncover this collection of contributions from enthusiastic researchers who aim to respond to this significant challenge of providing scientific answers that have not yet been documented on the physico-chemical/morphological/physical properties of polymer matrix nanocomposites

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