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PNCFs with extremely high nanoparticle concentrations are important components in energy storage and conversion devices, as well as in protective coatings. However, these PNCFs are difficult to prepare because of the poor processability of polymer-nanoparticle mixtures with high concentrations of nanoparticles; this problem is exacerbated with anisotropic nanoparticles.
A two-layer film, comprised of a polymer layer and a nanoparticle layer, is generated and annealed at a temperature that imparts mobility to the polymer. The polymer infiltrates the interstices of the nanoparticle layer. This approach has been demonstrated with monodisperse polystyrene and titanium dioxide nanoparticles.
Compared to films made from individual components, PNCFs generated from CaRI have superior mechanical properties, including hardness, modulus, scratch/wear resistance, and the ability to heal nanoparticle films with cracks that exist prior to annealing.