Enhanced Thermal Conductivity of Liquid Crystalline Epoxy Resin using Controlled Linear Polymerization

A powerful strategy to enhance the thermal conductivity of liquid crystalline epoxy resin (LCER) by simply replacing the conventional amine cross-linker with a cationic initiator was developed. The cationic initiator linearly wove the epoxy groups tethered on the microscopically aligned liquid crystal mesogens, resulting in freezing of the ordered LC microstructures even after curing. Owing to the reduced phonon scattering during heat transport through the ordered LC structure, a dramatic improvement in the thermal conductivity of neat cation-cured LCER was achieved to give a value ∼141% (i.e., 0.48 W/mK) higher than that of the amorphous amine-cured LCER. In addition, at the same composite volume fraction in the presence of a 2-D boron nitride filler, an approximately 130% higher thermal conductivity (maximum ∼23 W/mK at 60 vol %) was observed. The nanoarchitecture effect of the ordered LCER on the thermal conductivity was then examined by a systematic investigation using differential scanning calorimetry, polarized optical microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and thermal conductivity measurements. The linear polymerization of LCER can therefore be considered a practical strategy to enable the cost-efficient mass production of heat-dissipating materials, due to its high efficiency and simple process without the requirement for complex equipment.