Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Engineering

First Advisor

Associate Professor Laichang Zhang

Second Advisor

Professor Yee- Kwong Leong

Third Advisor

Dr Kevin Hayward


This study provides details for the design, preparation of an environmentally friendly, clinically safe and lightweight radiation protective shield made ofGd2O3/epoxy nanocomposite (Gd-nanocomposite) which is proposed as an alternative to traditional toxic lead (Pb)-based aprons for diagnostic X-ray protection. In theory, this particulate nanocomposite can possess significant features of both inorganic particles and organic polymeric matrices. However, in practice, its performance does not simply depend on the sum of the individual contributions of characteristics of the constituent phases but on the interaction of their inner interfaces and the homogeneous dispersion of inorganic particles in the polymer matrix.

The miniaturization of inorganic particles to nanoscale before mixing with an organic matrix has been considered as an effective way to improve the interface of the dispersion phase. Unfortunately, homogeneous dispersion has still not yet been achieved in this type of material due to the coalescence of nanoparticles resulting from the large surface area of nanoparticles and their chemical incompatibility with the matrix. The effect of inter-particle forces arising from adsorbed typical cationic and anionic surfactants on the morphology of the ball milled gadolinium oxide (Gd2O3) is investigated to attain the optimal conditions for interface improvement between Gd2O3 particles and an epoxy matrix.

The experimental outcomes are interpreted in terms of the stabilization and interaction mechanisms of the fine washed Gd2O3 particles (size diameter <1μm) in an aqueous medium under the variation of the surface forces arising from adsorbed surfactants. The point of zero charge or isoelectric point (IEP) of ball milled Gd2O3 particles suspension is at pH 11. In the presence of adsorbed anionic SDS (Sodium dodecyl sulphate), the particles are refined together with numerous 2D nanowire or nano-rod particles at pH ~ 8. In contrast, the coarser particles are found when cationic CTAB (Cetyl trimethylammonium bromide) is used to modify the Gd2O3 surface. This is invoked from organic shell formed by the high adsorbability of negatively charged heads of SDS into the bare positive charge density of the particle. This capping agent acts as (i) a steric barrier preventing the agglomeration or rewelding of the powder during nanoparticle preparation and (ii) an intermediate adhesive that enhances the miscibility of the particle and liquid matrix, thereby improving the particle dispersion in the organic matrix. VI

Based on the above outcomes, an optimal geometric design of a non-lead based X-ray protective material with lightweight per volume unit is prepared. A plateau with 28-30% increments in the value of fracture toughness (KIC (Mpa.m1/2)) is observed with a specific addition of 0.08 to 0.1 volume fraction (ϕs) of SDS-encapsulated Gd2O3 particles in pure epoxy. The same quantity of particles also optimally raises the critical strain energy release rate (GIC (J.m-2)) and Young’s modulus (E (MPa)) of epoxy by approximately 22-24% and 18-25% respectively. A 16 mm thick sheet of fabricated filled composite at ϕs of 0.08 and 0.1 can shield greater than 95% (0.5 mm Pb-equivalence) and 99% (1 mm Pb-equivalence) respectively of a primary X-ray beam in the range of 60-120kVp. At the same X-ray attenuation (99% attenuation), the specimen is 7, 8.5, and 16 times lighter than wood, glass, and concrete respectively. At 0.5 mm Pb-equivalence, the composite also has 4.5-19.4% less weight per unit area than current commercial non-lead products.


Only chapters 1, 3 and 8 are available in this version of the thesis.

Chapters 4, 5, and 7 have been published and are listed under "Related publications", with links provided to both the published and the Green open access versions.

Access Note

Access to Chapters 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of this thesis is not available.