Tech Briefs

Development of Carbon-Nanotube/Polymer Composites

A report presents a short discussion of one company’s effort to develop composites of carbon nanotubes in epoxy and other polymer matrices. The focus of the discussion is on the desirability of chemically modifying carbon nanotubes to overcome their inherent chemical nonreactivity and thereby enable the formation of strong chemical bonds between nanotubes and epoxies (or other polymeric matrix materials or their monomeric precursors).

The chemical modification is effected in a process in which discrete functional groups are covalently attached to the nanotube surfaces. The functionalization process was proposed by the company and demonstrated in practice for the first time during this development effort. The covalently attached functional groups are capable of reacting with the epoxy or other matrix resin to form covalent bonds. Furthermore, the company uses this process to chemically modify the nanotube surfaces, affording “tunable” adhesion to polymers and solubility in select solvents. Flat-sheet composites containing functionalized nanotubes demonstrate significantly improved mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties.

This work was done by Thomas A. Reynolds of ReyTech Corp. for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the Johnson Innovative Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809.
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