Fully integrated single-walled carbon nanotube thermoplastic composites
Rodriguez-Macias, Fernando J.
Barrera, Enrique V.
Doctor of Philosophy
The development of composites of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with thermoplastics requires methods for good dispersion and achieving good interaction between SWNTs and the matrix. This thesis presents a new method to achieve good dispersion by a preliminary treatment called incipient wetting. The SWNTs dispersed in a solvent are mixed with polymer particles and deposited over them as the solvent is evaporated to give an initial dispersion. Factors that make this more effective are: good wetting of the polymer by the solvent, swelling of the polymer, high surface area of the polymer. Swelling enhances the initial dispersion with some initial mixing. A high surface area is achieved using polymer powder. High shear mixing alone does not achieve the same uniform and repeatable level of dispersion that the combination with incipient wetting allows. The incipient wetting method was studied and applied to different polymers. The possibility of recovering SWNTs from thermoplastics by dissolving or burning away the matrix is an extension of this study. A new comprehensive approach to control the interface of thermoplastics with SWNTs is studied. This is based on achieving direct chemical bonding between polymer molecules and functional groups on oxidized open ends, sidewalls, or both, in the SWNTs. Different concepts and approaches to these "fully integrated nanotube composites" are discussed. The concepts have been applied to epoxies elsewhere and are tested here with nylon-6,6 as a model system. Nylon was synthesized by interfacial polymerization in the presence of SWNTs resulting in excellent dispersion in the composite without further processing. The essential requirement for good dispersion is that the SWNTs are well dispersed in the solvent. Interfacial polymerization opens the way to many types of polymer-SWNT composites. Tests of full integration of SWNTs with open ended nanotubes showed promising results and hints of integration but were limited by dispersion in the solvent. Fluorinated SWNTs were dispersed effectively with dichlorobenzene, another solvent may be better. There is no conclusive evidence of integration with F-SWNTs but they may react with the polymer chain with thermal post-processing.
Polymer chemistry; Engineering; Materials science