Effect of nanoclay concentration level on the electrical properties of polypropylene under electron irradiation in a SEM
Summary For studying the electrical properties (charge trapping, transport and secondary electron emission) of the polypropylene‐based nanocomposites with different contents of natural clay, the specimens were submitted to electron irradiation of a scanning electron microscope. A device, suitably mounted on the sample holder of the scanning electron microscope, was used to measure two currents (i.e. leakage and displacement currents) induced in the polypropylene‐based nanocomposites (polymer nanocomposites) under electron irradiation. The evolution of trapped charge during irradiation for each type of studied polymer nanocomposites is deduced. The amount of trapped charge at the steady state is also determined by measuring the change of secondary electron image size associated to the electron trajectory simulation. It is found, surprisingly, that not only the leakage current increases as a function of clay loading level but also trapped charge. However, this could be related to the increase of conductivity in one hand and to proliferation of interfaces between nanoparticles and neighbouring materials on the other hand. These two processes play crucial role in controlling the carrier transport (through polymer nanocomposites or/and along its surface) closely related to the charge storage and leakage current. Additional experiment using dielectric spectroscopy were performed to show the effect of clay concentration in changing the dielectric relaxation behaviour and to evidence the existence of interfaces between nanoparticles and polymer. The secondary electron emission during electron irradiation is also studied through the total electron yield that is deduced by correlating the measured leakage and displacement currents.
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