Spontanious dispersion of nanotubes in viscous polymer
Appeared in Carbon, Letter to the editor
19 December 2012
Materials scientists at Toulouse (CEMES) collaborating with ESWCT Airbus (Toulouse) have discovered when studying the nanotube wetting on polymers, that nanotubes placed on a thermoplastic polymer (PEEK) surface diffuse homogeneously in the polymer when annealing.
TEM image of interface between diffusion layer of multiwall carbon nanotubes and polymer.
The large application potential of carbon nanotube composites in aerospace industry is principally due their improved electrical and mechanical properties. So far one of the biggest obstacles of their large scale use is their tendency to form agglomerates in the matrix leading to heterogeneous composites. Recent wetting studies of carbon nanotubes of agglomerated tubes on the surface of PEEK at CEMES show, however that the tubes disperse spontaneously in the polymer when annealing. The authors propose that preferential infrared absorption of carbon nanotubes heat the tubes resulting in higher diffusion rates of the polymer along the tube axis which has the effect of dispersing the tubes in the polymer. Current studies show that the tubes are homogeneously dispersed at distances of at least 70 micrometers.