Constitutive and fracture behavior of ultra-strong supercrystalline nanocomposites


Supercrystalline nanocomposites are a new class of hybrid and nanostructured materials that can reach exceptional mechanical strength and can be fabricated at low temperatures. Hierarchically arranged, they bridge the gap from the nano- to the macro-scale. Even though their mechanical properties are starting to be characterized, their constitutive behavior is still largely unexplored. Here, the mechanical behavior of supercrystalline nanocomposites of iron oxide nanoparticles, surface-functionalized with oleic acid and oleyl phosphate ligands, is investigated in both bending and compression, with loading–unloading tests. A new bar geometry is implemented to better detect deformation prior to unstable crack propagation, and notched bending bars are tested to evaluate fracture toughness. Micro-mechanical tests result in the values of strength and elastic modulus that are extremely high for supercrystals, reaching record-high numbers in the oleic acid-based nanocomposites, which also show a significant tension–compression asymmetry. The constitutive behavior of both materials is predominantly linear elastic, with some more marked nonlinearities arising in the oleyl phosphate-based nanocomposites. The fracture toughness of both types of nanocomposites, ∼0.3 MPa√m, suggests that extrinsic toughening, associated with both material composition and nanostructure, plays an important role. Fractographic observations reveal analogies with shear and cleavage in atomic crystals. The influence of material composition, nanostructure, and processing method on the mechanical behavior of the nanocomposites is analyzed.
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