Airbrushed Polysulfone (PSF)/Hydroxyapatite (HA) Nanocomposites: Effect of the Presence of Nanoparticles on Mechanical Behavior

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Nanocomposite films of polysulfone (PSF)—hydroxyapatite (HA) were prepared with a commercial airbrush. Structural, thermal, and mechanical characterization allows obtaining new information to understand the role of the nanofiller–polymer matrix interphase in the final performance of these materials in relation to its possible applications in the restoration of bones. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy shows that there are hardly any structural changes in the polymer when adding HA particles. From thermal analysis (differential scanning calorimetry and thermogravimetry), it can be highlighted that the presence of HA does not significantly affect the glass transition temperature of the PSF but decelerates its thermal degradation. All this information points out that any change in the PSF performance because of the addition of HA particles cannot be due to specific interactions between the filler and the polymer. Results obtained from uniaxial tensile tests indicate that the addition of small amounts of HA particles (1% wt) leads to elastic moduli higher than the upper bound predicted by the rule of mixtures suggesting there must be a high contribution of the interphase. A simple model of the nanocomposite is proposed for which three contributions must be considered, particles, interphase and matrix, in such a way that interphases arising from different particles can interact by combining with each other thus leading to a decrease in its global contribution when the amount of particles is high enough. The mechanical behavior can be explained considering a balance between the contribution of the interphase and the number of particles. Finally, a particular mechanism is proposed to explain why in certain nanocomposites relatively high concentrations of nanoparticles may substantially increase the strain to failure.
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