Langmuir, 2017, vol 33, 39, pp. 10248-10258
A detailed understanding of the processes taking place during the in situ synthesis of metal/polymer nanocomposites is crucial to manipulate the shape and size of nanoparticles (NPs) with a high level of control. In this paper, we report an in-depth time-resolved analysis of the particle formation process in silver/epoxy nanocomposites obtained through a visible-light-assisted in situ synthesis. The selected epoxy monomer was based on diglycidyl ether of bisphenol A, which undergoes relatively slow cationic ring-opening polymerization. This feature allowed us to access a full description of the formation process of silver NPs before this was arrested by the curing of the epoxy matrix. In situ time-resolved small-angle X-ray scattering investigation was carried out to follow the evolution of the number and size of the silver NPs as a function of irradiation time, whereas rheological experiments combined with near-infrared and ultraviolet–visible spectroscopies were performed to interpret how changes in the rheological properties of the matrix affect the nucleation and growth of particles. The analysis of the obtained results allowed us to propose consistent mechanisms for the formation of metal/polymer nanocomposites obtained by light-assisted one-pot synthesis. Finally, the effect of a thermal postcuring treatment of the epoxy matrix on the particle size in the nanocomposite was investigated.