Single-walled carbon nanotube-silicon nitride composites
Corral, Erica Lorrane
Barrera, Enrique V.
Doctor of Philosophy
Colloidal processing methods were developed in order to disperse highly concentrated 1.0, 2.0, and 6.0 vol% single-walled carbon nantoube (SWNT)-Si 3N4 aqueous composite suspensions. Interparticle pair potentials were developed between individual Si3N4 particles and SWNT bundles by coating them with cationic surfactant molecules of cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB). Zeta potential, viscosity, and sedimentation measurements were conducted on SWNTs and Si3N4 particle suspensions in order to optimize the pH and amount of adsorbed CTAB. The composite suspension viscosity was pH sensitive and adjusted accordingly before consolidation into three-dimensional solid parts using a rapid prototyping fabrication method called robocasting. High-density composites were produced using spark plasma sintering and structurally intact SWNTs were directly observed in the final sintered microstructure using scanning electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. When processed with SWNTs the highly insulative ceramic became electrically conductive and resulted in increased grindability for the otherwise hard to machine ceramic. The high hardness, fracture toughness and density of Si 3N4 was maintained for the composite due to the detailed development of colloidal processing and sintering methods used during fabrication. In addition, the thermal conductivity of the ceramic was reduced with the incorporation of well-dispersed SWNTs. Indentation load studies on the composites revealed sub-surface chipping and deformation around the indent before radial crack development indicating a degree of damage tolerance over the monolith. Along the wake of the crack SWNTs were also observed bridging the crack therefore showing their potential to act as toughening agents in brittle ceramics.
Engineering; Materials science