Hypothesis: The compatibility of surfactants and graphene surfaces can be improved by increasing the number of aromatic groups in the surfactants. Including aniline in the structure may improve the compatibility between surfactant and graphene further still. Surfactants can be modified by incorporating aromatic groups in the hydrophobic chains or hydrophilic headgroups. Therefore, it is of interest to investigate the effects of employing anilinium based surfactants to disperse graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs) in natural rubber latex (NRL) for the fabrication of electrically conductive nanocomposites. Experiments: New graphene-philic surfactants carrying aromatic moieties in the hydrophilic headgroups and hydrophobic tails were synthesized by swapping the traditional sodium counterion with anilinium. 1 H NMR spectroscopy was used to characterize the surfactants. These custom-made surfactants were used to assist the dispersion of GNPs in natural rubber latex matrices for the preparation of conductive nanocomposites. The properties of nanocomposites with the new anilinium surfactants were compared with commercial sodium surfactant sodium dodecylsulfate (SDS), sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate (SDBS), and the previously synthesized aromatic tri-chain sodium surfactant TC3Ph3 (sodium 1,5-dioxo-1,5-bis(3-phenylpropoxy)-3-((3phenylpropoxy)carbonyl) pentane-2-sulfonate). Structural properties of the nanocomposites were studied using Raman spectroscopy, field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM). Electrical conductivity measurements and Zeta potential measurements were used to assess the relationships between total number of aromatic groups in the surfactant molecular structure and nanocomposite properties. The self-assembly structure of surfactants in aqueous systems and GNP dispersions was assessed using small-angle neutron scattering (SANS). Findings: Among these different surfactants, the anilinium version of TC3Ph3 namely TC3Ph3-AN (anilinium 1,5-dioxo-1,5-bis(3-phenylpropoxy)-3-((3phenylpropoxy)carbonyl) pentane-2-sulfonate) was shown to be highly efficient for dispersing GNPs in the NRL matrices, increasing electrical conductivity eleven orders of magnitude higher than the neat rubber latex. Comparisons between the sodium and anilinium surfactants show significant differences in the final properties of the nanocomposites. In general, the strategy of increasing the number of surfactant-borne aromatic groups by incorporating anilinium ions in surfactant headgroups appears to be effective.
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- Anionic anilinium surfactants
- Dispersion stability
- Graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs)
- Natural rubber latex (NRL)
- Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS)