Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Surya K. Mallapragada


Understanding the nature of the interfacial region between an organic polymer matrix and an inorganic filler component is essential in determining how this region impacts the overall bulk properties of the organic/inorganic hybrid composite material. In this work, polystyrene was used as the model polymer matrix coupled with silica-based filler materials to investigate the nature of structure-property relationships in polymer composites.

Initial work was conducted on synthesis and characterization of colloidal and mesoporous silica particles melt blended into the polystyrene matrix. Modification of the interface was accomplished by chemically bonding the silica particles with the polystyrene chains through polymerization from the particle surface via atom transfer radical polymerization. High molecular weight polystyrene chains were formed and bulk test samples were evaluated with increased thermal stability of the grafted polymer composite system versus equivalent melt blended polymer composites.

Polymer grafting was also conducted from the internal pores of mesoporous silica, further improving the thermal stability of the composite system without degrading dynamic mechanical properties. Characterization of the polymer composites was conducted with gel permeation chromatography, transmission electron microscopy, thermogravimetric analysis and dynamic mechanical analysis.

It was also discovered during the polystyrene-silica composite studies that amorphous polystyrene can possess a less mobile phase, evident in a second peak of the loss tangent (tan ). The long annealing times necessitated by the mesoporous silica composites were replicated in as received polystyrene. This new, less mobile phase is of particular interest in determining the mobility of polymer chains in the interfacial region.


Copyright Owner

Melissa Ann Ver Meer



Date Available


File Format


File Size

101 pages