NASA's Langley Research Center has created a new class of materials based on depositing nanometer-sized metal particles onto carbon allotropes. The method is scalable and relatively simple, and allows for control over the size and distribution of the metal particles in the substrate, adjusting the surface area to optimize specific thermal or electrical properties of the material. One promising nanocomposite material created consists of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) decorated with metal particles dispersed in a polymer matrix. Ribbons, tubes, and moldings of the nanocomposite were found to have novel intrinsic electrical characteristics that enable tunable dielectric constants with low loss factors. The decoupling and independent control of the two fundamental parameters offer a class of materials with the potential for finely tailored electronic properties. The novel methods enable materials that show promise for a variety of applications in electronics, communications, catalysis, and optics.
The technology is a process for depositing nanometer-sized metal particles onto a substrate in the absence of aqueous solvents, organic solvents, and reducing agents, and without any required pretreatment of the substrate. It involves first mixing carbon and an organometallic compound (silver, gold, platinum, palladium, cobalt, nickel) at specific concentrations followed by a thermal treatment. The resulting materials are novel structures that consist of the carbon allotrope with zero valence metallic particles distributed on the surface of the carbon allotrope. In the case of the antenna application, the conducting elements are placed directly into the substrate. Other applications such as catalysts for chemical reactions and polymerizations are possible.
This technology can be used for all- dielectric antennas, including low-mass, ultra-thin microstrip antennas with enhanced performance characteristics (early results indicate a 10% bandwidth increase is achievable); fractal antennas for cellphones; low-profile substrates for high-frequency electronics; radio frequency identification (RFID) antennas; improved thermal conductivity of polymeric materials as emitters; higher power (lower volume) capacitors; low- loss battery components; membrane electrode assemblies; complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology; and catalysts for a variety of chemical reactions.