Carbon Black 101 2017-05-19T20:48:15+00:00

LEARNING CENTER

CARBON
BLACK 101

 

A carbon black’s application performance is determined by its fundamental properties and the level of dispersion achieved. The most important physical and chemical properties include particle size, porosity, structure, and surface chemistry. These properties are distributional in nature, and this distribution in properties affects performance. The level of dispersion in any given matrix is strongly influenced by the mixing equipment, formulation (including dispersant selection), and physical form.

PARTICLE SIZE

Measured by electron microscopy, this is the fundamental property that has a significant effect on rubber properties, as well as color properties for specialty carbon blacks.

For specialty carbon blacks, smaller particle diameter gives rise to higher surface area and tinting strength. High surface area is usually associated with greater jetness, higher conductivity, improved weatherability, and higher viscosity, but requires increased dispersion energy.

For rubber, finer particles lead to increased reinforcement, increased abrasion resistance, and improved tensile strength. To disperse finer particles size, however, requires increased mixing time and energy. Typical particle sizes range from around 8 nanometers to 100 nanometers for furnace blacks. Surface area is utilized in the industry as an indicator of the fineness level of the carbon black and, therefore, of the particle size.

STRUCTURE

This is a measure of the three-dimensional fusion of carbon black particles to form aggregates, which may contain a large number of particles. The shape and degree of branching of the aggregates is referred to as structure.

Highly structured carbon blacks provide higher viscosity, greater electrical conductivity and easier dispersion for specialty carbon blacks. Measures of aggregate structure may be obtained from shape distributions from EM analysis, oil absorption (OAN) or void volume analysis.

The structure level of a carbon black ultimately determines its effects on several important in-rubber properties. Increasing carbon black structure increases modulus, hardness, electrical conductivity, and improves dispersibility of carbon black, but increases compound viscosity.

POROSITY

This is a fundamental property of carbon black that can be controlled during the production process. It can affect the measurement of surface area providing a total surface area (NSA) larger than the external value (STSA).

Conductive specialty carbon blacks tend to have a high degree of porosity, while an increase in porosity also allows a rubber compounder to increase carbon black loading while maintaining compound specific gravity. This leads to an increase in compound modulus and electrical conductivity for a fixed loading.

SURFACE CHEMISTRY OR SURFACE ACTIVITY

This is a function of the manufacturing process and the heat history of a carbon black and generally refers to the oxygen-containing groups present on a carbon black’s surface.

For specialty carbon blacks, oxidized surfaces improve pigment wetting, dispersion, rheology, and overall performance in selected systems. In other cases, oxidation increases electrical resistivity and makes carbon blacks more hydrophilic. The extent of surface oxidation is measured by determining the quantity of the “volatile” component on the carbon black. High volatile levels are associated with low pH.

While difficult to measure directly for rubber, surface chemistry manifests itself through its effects on such in-rubber properties as abrasion resistance, tensile strength, hysteresis, and modulus. The effect of surface activity on cure characteristics will depend strongly on the cure system in use.

PHYSICAL FORM

This is important in matching a carbon black to the equipment by which it is to be dispersed. The physical form (beads or powder) can affect the handling and mixing characteristics.

The ultimate degree of dispersion is also a function of the mixing procedures and equipment used. Powdered carbon blacks are recommended in low-shear dispersers and on three-roll mills. Beaded carbon blacks are recommended for shot mills, ball mills, and other high energy equipment. Beading provides lower dusting, bulk handling capabilities, and higher bulk densities, while powdered carbon blacks offer improved dispersibility.