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Synthesis of natural hybrid nanopigments for multiple industrial applications

The development of composites materials using nanometric scale additives (as nanoclays) makes possible to obtain high-performance materials for diverse industrial sectors. For example, nanoclays reinforce and improve the mechanical properties of polymer matrices.

The polymers? resulting properties will depend on the composite materials structures obtained, regardless the polymeric matrix employed. The best properties are achieved with the exfoliated composites, instead of the intercalated ones (Figure 1). To this end, it is often necessary to modify the nanoclays surface properties, making use of additives to ensure the correct polarity and to get a uniform dispersion of the particles.

In the last few years, conventional polymer matrices have been substituted by polymers from biomass, or biopolymers. The aim is to improve the thermal, mechanical and barrier properties of the biopolymer to enable its use in different industrial applications, using environmental friendly materials at the same time.

A Spanish research group has developed an optimised process to obtain hybrid nanopigments (with synthetic or natural dyes) able to confer improved optical, thermal and mechanical properties to the materials in which they are applied on.

Depending on the material properties to be reinforced, the nanoclay structures, the surface additives/modifiers, and their incorporation moment during the synthesis process are selected.

The nanopigment synthesis process needs the inorganic component (nanoclay) modification, in order to allow and improve the dye interaction, and then, the polymer matrix interactions. Different kinds of modifiers have been selected: surfactants, mordants and coupling agents.

For the nanopigment synthesis and the nanocomposite generation, the following components have been chosen:

1. Nanoclays
2. Dyes
3. Thermostable polymers (resins) from different sources (natural, synthetic and blends).
4. Thermoplastic polymers from different sources (natural, synthetic and blends).

This new procedure maximises the adsorbed dye in the nanoclay, the dye temperature fastness (degradation temperature) and the polymer matrix temperature resistance (degradation temperature). In addition, it minimises or avoids the dye migration effects on their application, both in wet or dry conditions. Finally, it improves:
? the mechanical polymer matrix properties, as flexural / tensile resistance, and also it changes the viscosity of the initial matrix.
? the oxygen and water barrier properties of the polymer matrix.
? the polymer flame retardant properties.
? the coloured biopolymer transparency properties.
? the nanopigments colouring power, applied on a polymer matrix.
? the ultraviolet-visible colour fastness using nanoclays as host in the hybrid pigments.

Another advantage is that it can be obtained a wide colour gamut from the same dye molecule, changing the synthesis process conditions. It can also be obtained different texture properties, depending on the nanopigment synthesis factors.

The materials in which these nanopigments could be applied are, among others: ceramics, printing inks, paints, synthetic fibres, natural fibres, coating materials, textiles, paper, polymeric materials, biopolymers, cement and concrete, mortar, construction materials, cosmetics, food packaging, footwear, toys, wood and furniture, stone and marble.

The research group is looking for companies interested in acquiring this invention for commercial exploitation through licensing agreement or technical cooperation (Development of new applications, adaptation to specific needs of the company, technical reports and scientific assessment, etc.).

» Reference: TOES20170331001/SPAIN

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This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [605658].

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