A synergistic stiffening effect observed in the elastic mechanical properties of LBL assembled polymer/clay nanocomposites is studied via two continuum mechanics approaches. The nanostructure of the representative volume element (RVE) includes an effective interphase layer that is assumed to be perfectly bonded to the particle and matrix phases. An inverse method to determine the effective thickness and stiffness of the interphase layer using finite element (FE) simulations and experimental data previously published in Kaushik et al. (2009), is first illustrated. Next, a size-dependent strain gradient Mori-Tanaka (M-T) model (SGMT) is developed by applying strain gradient elasticity to the classical M-T method. Both approaches are applied to LBL-assembled polyurethane-montmorillonite (PU-MTM) clay nanocomposites. Both two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) FE models used in the first approach are shown to be able to accurately predict the stiffness of the PU-MTM specimens with various volume fractions. The SGMT model also accurately predicts the experimentally observed increase in stiffness of the PU-MTM nanocomposite with increasing volume fraction of clay. An analogy between the strain gradient effect and the role of an interphase in accounting for the synergistic elastic stiffening in nanocomposites is provided. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Li, Y., Waas, A. M., & Arruda, E. M. (2011). The effects of the interphase and strain gradients on the elasticity of layer by layer (LBL) polymer/clay nanocomposites. International Journal of Solids and Structures, 48(6), 1044–1053. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsolstr.2010.12.008