50th Anniversary Perspective: Are Polymer Nanocomposites Practical for Applications?

Research paper by Sanat K. Kumar, Brian C. Benicewicz, Richard A. Vaia, Karen I. Winey

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 24 Jan '17Published in: Macromolecules


The field of polymer nanocomposites has been at the forefront of research in the polymer community for the past few decades. Foundational work published in Macromolecules during this time has emphasized the physics and chemistry of the inclusion of nanofillers; remarkable early developments suggested that these materials would create a revolution in the plastics industry. After 25 years of innovative and groundbreaking research, PNCs have enabled many niche solutions. To complement the extensive literature currently available, we focus this Perspective on four case studies of PNCs applications: (i) filled rubbers, (ii) continuous fiber reinforced thermoset composites, (iii) membranes for gas separations, and (iv) dielectrics for capacitors and insulation. After presenting synthetic developments we discuss the application of polymer nanocomposites to each of these topic areas; successes will be noted, and we will finish each section by highlighting the various technological bottlenecks that need to be overcome to take these materials to full-scale practical application. By considering past successes and failures, we will emphasize the critical fundamental science needed to further expand the practical relevance of these materials.

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