Polymer Engineering Faculty Research

Dynamics of alkyl ammonium intercalants within organically modified montmorillonite: Dielectric relaxation and ionic conductivity

Hendrik Heinz, The University of Akron


The low-frequency (0.01 Hz-10 MHz) dynamic characteristics of alkyl quaternary ammonium exchanged montmorillonite (SC20A) were investigated to determine the correlation between temperature-dependent changes in the interlayer structure and collective mobility of the surfactant. From 25 to 165 degrees C, SC20A exhibits two interlayer transitions, one ascribed to the melting of the intercalated alkyl chains of the surfactant (20-40 degrees C) and another associated with an abrupt decrease in the interlayer's coefficient of thermal expansion (100 degrees C). For this temperature range, the excess surfactant and residual electrolytes present in commercially manufactured SC20A enhance the direct current conductivity and increase low-frequency space-charge polarization, which is believed to occur across percolation paths established by the surfaces of the SC20A crystallites. In contrast, a higher-frequency relaxation, which was less sensitive to process history and impurity content, is ascribed to relaxation within the interlayer at the surfactant-aluminosilicate interface electrostatic couple. The temperature dependence of these dielectric relaxations indicated a drastic increase in mobility as the interlayer organic phase transitions from static and glasslike into molten and mobile. Overall, SC20A displayed features of alternating current universality, including time-temperature superposition, common in other types of disordered ion-conducting media. The presence of long-range transport and its sensitivity to low amounts of impurities imply that from a dynamic perspective the local environment of the surfactants are substantially diverse and a minority fraction, such as at the edge of the crystallite (gallery and aluminosilicate layer), may dominate the lower-frequency dielectric response.