Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Eric A. Grulke


Study on nanoparticle additives in multiphase systems (liquid, polymer) are of immense interest in developing new product applications. Critical challenges for nanoparticle additives include their synthesis, formulation and characterization. These challenges are addressed in three application areas: nanofluids for engine lubrication, ultrathin nanocomposites for optical devices, and nanoparticle size distribution characterization.

Nanoparticle additives in oligomer mixtures can be used to develop extended temperature range motor oils. A model system includes poly(α-olefin) based oligomers with a modest fraction of poly(dimethylsiloxane) oligomers along with graphite as nanoparticle additive. Partition coefficients of each oligomer are determined since the oligomer mixture phase separated at temperatures less than -15 °C. Also, the surface of graphite additive is quantitatively analyzed and modified via silanization for each oligomer. Thus, upon separation of the oligomer mixture, each functionalized graphite additive migrates to its preferred oligomers and forms a uniform dispersion.

Similarly, nanoparticle additives in polymer matrices can be used to develop new low haze ultrathin film optical coatings. A model system included an acrylate monomer as the continuous phase with monodisperse or bidisperse mixtures of silica nanoparticles deposited on glass and polycarbonate substrates. Surface (root mean squared roughness, Wenzel’s contact angle) and optical properties (haze) of these self assembled experimental surfaces were compared to simulated surface structures. Manipulating the size ratios of silica nanoparticle mixtures varied the average surface roughness and the height distributions, producing multimodal structures with different packing fractions.

In both nanofluid and nanocomposite applications, nanoparticle additives tend to aggregate/agglomerate depending on various factors including the state of nanoparticles (powder, dispersion). A set of well-characterized ceria and titania nanoparticle products from commercial sources along with in-lab synthesized nanoparticles were studied via fractal theory. Fractal coefficients were obtained through two-dimensional images (from electron microscopy) and particle size distributions (from electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering). For some arbitrary collections of aggregated nanoparticle materials, the fractal coefficients via two-dimensional images correlated well to the average primary particle size. This complementary tool could be used along with conventional nanoparticle characterization techniques when not much is known about the nanoparticle surfaces to characterize agglomeration or aggregation phenomena.