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Study of Mechanical Performance Enhancement For Polymers Via Particle Reinforcement Offered As An Independent Study Course
Engineering courses offered as independent study classes help students to understand real-life problems and promote the use of theoretical knowledge gathered in other disciplines for practical applications. We have created a continuity of independent study classes for students in the areas of applied research with broad potential applications at Mercer University. By working in a laboratory environment, students are exposed to diverse equipment and materials. Polymer-based composites are an important class of materials that are used in many fields including aerospace, automotive, and marine applications due to their lightweight and desirable mechanical properties. Epoxies are a major group of polymers that are commonly used as matrix for composites. Recently, there has been a constant interest in improving their strength and wear resistance. This study aims to evaluate the effects of particle addition: glass beads (micro-scale particles) and alumina powder (nano-scale particles) on the mechanical and abrasive properties of the epoxy-based composites. Epoxy samples were manufactured in the lab with different percentages of particles (0, 5, 10, 15 weight %) and the mechanical properties of fabricated composites were evaluated (i.e. flexural strength, elastic modulus, wear/ abrasive resistance). A group of specimens were exposed to accelerated weathering conditions including UV radiation, high temperature, and moisture by using an environmental chamber and the influence of the filler particles on the mechanical performance was monitored. Under the independent study frame, students are planning the research, perform measurements, collect data, analyze and present the results.