A modicum of progress has been made in an effort to exploit single-walled carbon nanotubes as fibers in epoxy-matrix/fiber composite materials. Two main obstacles to such use of carbon nanotubes are the following: (1) bare nanotubes are not soluble in epoxy resins and so they tend to agglomerate instead of becoming dispersed as desired; and (2) because of lack of affinity between nanotubes and epoxy matrices, there is insufficient transfer of mechanical loads between the nanotubes and the matrices.
Part of the effort reported here was oriented toward (1) functionalization of single-walled carbon nanotubes with methyl methacrylate (MMA) to increase their dispersability in epoxy resins and increase transfer of mechanical loads and (2) ultrasonic dispersion of the functionalized nanotubes in tetrahydrofuran, which was used as an auxiliary solvent to aid in dispersing the functionalized nanotubes into a epoxy resin. In another part of this effort, poly(styrene sulfonic acid) was used as the dispersant and water as the auxiliary solvent. In one experiment, the strength of composite of epoxy with MMA-functionalized-nanotubes was found to be 29 percent greater than that of a similar composite of epoxy with the same proportion of untreated nanotubes.
This work was done by Thomas Tiano, Margaret Roylance, and John Gassner of Foster- Miller, Inc. and William Kyle (consultant) for Johnson Space Center.