The synthesis, surface modification and use of metal-oxide nanoparticles in polyethylene for ultra-low transmission-loss HVDC cable insulation materials
Sammanfattning: Polyethylene composites which contain low concentrations of metal-oxide nanoparticles e.g. ZnO and MgO are emerging materials for the use in insulations of extruded high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) cables. The challenge in the development of the composites with ultra-low electrical conductivity is to synthesize uniform and high-purity metal-oxide nanoparticles, which are functionalized with hydrophobic groups in order to make them compatible with polyethylene. The thesis reports different approaches to prepare this new generation of insulation materials.Different reaction parameters/conditions – zinc salt precursor, precursor concentrations and reaction temperature – were varied in order to tailor the size and morphology of the ZnO nanoparticles. It was shown that different particle sizes and particle morphologies could be obtained by using different zinc salt precursors (acetate, nitrate, chloride or sulphate). It was shown that 60 °C was a suitable reaction temperature in order to yield particles with different morphologies ranging from nano-prisms to flower-shaped superstructures. For removal of reaction residuals from the particles surfaces, a novel cleaning method based on ultrasonication was developed, which was more efficient than traditional water-replacement cleaning. After cleaning, the presence of one atomic layer of zinc-hydroxy-salt complex (ZHS) on the nanoparticle surfaces was suggested by thermogravimetry and infrared spectroscopy. A method involving three steps – silane coating, heat treatment and silica layer etching – was used to remove the last trace of the ZHS species from the nanoparticle surface while preserving its clean and active hydroxylated surface. The surface chemistry of these nanoparticles was further tailored from hydroxyl groups to hydrophobic alkyl groups with different lengths by reactions involving methyltrimethoxysilane (C1), octyltriethoxysilane (C8) and octadecyltrimethoxysilane (C18).MgO nanoparticles were prepared by aqueous precipitation of Mg(OH)2 followed by a partial transformation to MgO nanoparticles via heat treatment at 400 °C. The surface regions of the MgO nanoparticles convert into a hydroxide phase in humid media. A novel method to obtain large surface area MgO nanoparticles with a remarkable inertness to humidity was also presented. The method involved three steps: (a) thermal decomposition of Mg(OH)2 at 400 °C; (b) silicone oxide coating of the nanoparticles to prevent inter-particle sintering and (c) a high temperature heat treatment at 1000 °C. These MgO nanoparticles showed essentially no sign of formed hydroxide phase even after extended exposure to humid air.The functionalized metal-oxide nanoparticles showed only a minor adsorption of phenolic antioxidant, which is important in order to obtain nanocomposites with an adequate long-term stability. Tensile testing and scanning electron microscopy revealed that the surface-modified metal-oxide nanoparticles showed improved dispersion and interfacial adhesion in the polyethylene matrix with reference to that of unmodified metal-oxide nanoparticles. The highly “efficient” interfacial surface area induced by these modified nanoparticles created the traps for charge carriers at the polymer/particle interface thus reducing the DC conductivity by more than 1 order of magnitude than that of the pristine polyethylene.
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