Studies on Single Wall Carbon Nanotube and Polymer Composite Films and Fibers
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Single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) have been extensively studied over the last decade due to their excellent comprehensive properties for a variety of applications. This study is focused on the applications of SWNTs as reinforcement for polymer matrices. Due to van der Waal interactions, SWNTs form bundles of about 30 nm diameters. In order to take full advantage of the SWNT mechanical properties, SWNT must exfoliate or at least disperse in small diameter bundle size. Optical microscopy and SEM only give qualitative information of dispersion. Quantitative characterization through TEM or AFM can be time consuming in order to get statistical result. In this study, simple method is developed to quantitatively estimate the size of SWNT bundle in dispersion based on the geometry controlled electrical percolation behavior. The SWNTs can be dispersed /exfoliated via PVP wrapped SWNT aqueous dispersion assisted by surfactants such as sodium dodycel sulfate. PVA / SWNT composite films prepared through PVP wrapped SWNTs exhibit improved mechanical properties as well as the evidence of load transfer from the polymer matrix to the SWNT as monitored by the Raman spectroscopy. SWNT can also be well dispersed into PVA/DMSO/H2O solution. Gel spinning of PVA/SWNT composite fiber has been successfully carried out with improved mechanical properties. Functionalized tubes can be used to enhance SWNT dispersion and exfoliation. Oxidation in strong acids is one method used for functionalizing nanotubes. SWNTs have been functionalized in nitric acid. The structure and properties of films (buckypaper) processed from nitric acid functionalized tubes have been studied exhibiting high tensile strength and high electrical conductivity. Nitric acid treatment results in selective degradation of the small diameter tubes.