Hectorite clay films exchanged with Cu2+ or Fe3+ react with methyl-methacrylate monomer in a solventless process to form poly(methyl-methacrylate) (PMMA). Scanning force microscopy (SFM), electron spin resonance (ESR), and X-ray diffraction (XRD) are useful in studying the resulting clay/polymer composite. SFM shows that PMMA forms on the surface of both the Cu2+- and Fe3+-exchanged films. In addition, XRD shows PMMA formation in the interlayer region of the Fe3+-exchanged hectorite but not the interlayer region of Cu2+-exchanged hectorite. SFM shows that the morphology of the polymer formed on the film surface depends on: (1) the type of transition metal exchanged into the interlayer region. (2) The mode of delivery (vapor vs. liquid) of methyl-methacrylate monomer to the surface of the clay. PMMA does not form to a significant extent on or within Ca2+-exchanged hectorite, and ESR shows no evidence of free radical formation or reduction of the transition metals during any of the polymerization reactions. The results suggest the possibility of an unusual cationic polymerization of methyl-methacrylate to form PMMA with organic cations being stabilized by interaction with the silicate surface. The experimental results have implications for 'solventless synthesis' of PMMA and other polymers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology