Analysis of the effect and mechanism of microwave curing on the chemical shrinkage of epoxy resins

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The microwave cure–induced chemical shrinkage of epoxy resins in composite materials was researched in this article. Four kinds of epoxy resins were cured using the microwave and thermal heating process. An improved device containing fiber Bragg grating sensors was applied to accurately measure the chemical shrinkage–induced linear strains in those samples. Experimental results indicated that the chemical shrinkage of diglycidyl ether of bisphenol A (DGEBA)/polyetheramine (PEA) and tetraglycidyl diaminodiphenylmethane/4,4′-diaminodiphenyl sulfone epoxy resins was significantly reduced by microwave curing, and the reductions about 37.1 and 38.4% were achieved compared with the thermal-cured counterparts. However, the chemical shrinkage of the thermal- and microwave-cured samples was almost the same for DGEBA/methyl tetrahydrophthalic anhydride and DGEBA/dicyandiamide epoxies. In order to analyze the influencing mechanism of microwaves on the chemical shrinkage, the chemical structure of various samples was characterized by using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and the free volume was measured by positron annihilation lifetime spectrometer. It was found that microwaves can greatly decrease the contents of hydroxyl groups in epoxy resins, leading to the reduction of the chemical shrinkage. Furthermore, the mechanical properties of both microwave- and thermal-cured DGEBA/PEA epoxies were studied, and the results showed that the microwave-cured specimens have a higher impact strength but a lower tensile strength.

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