Dispersion of carbon nanotubes in vinyl ester polymer composites
Barrera, Enrique V.
Doctor of Philosophy
This work focused on a parametric study of dispersions of different types of carbon nanotubes in a polymer resin. Single-walled (SWNTs), double-walled (DWNTs), multi-walled (MWNTs) and XD-grade carbon nanotubes (XD-CNTs) were dispersed in vinyl ester (VE) using an ultra-sonic probe at a fixed frequency. The power, amplitude, and mixing time parameters of sonication were correlated to the electrical and mechanical properties of the composite materials in order to optimize dispersion. The quality of dispersion was quantified by Raman spectroscopy and verified through optical and scanning electron microscopy. By Raman, the CNT distribution, unroping, and damage was monitored and correlated with the composite properties for dispersion optimization. Increasing the ultrasonication energy was found to improve the distribution of all CNT materials and to decrease the size of nanotube ropes, enhancing the electrical conductivity and storage modulus. However, excessive amounts of energy were found to damage CNTs, which negatively affected the properties of the composite. Based on these results the optimum dispersion energy inputs were determined for the different composite materials. The electrical resistivity was lowered by as much as 14, 13, 13, and 11 orders of magnitude for SWNT/VE, DWNT/VE, MWNT/VE, and XD-CNT/VE respectively, compared to the neat resin. The storage modulus was also increased compared to the neat resin by 77%, 82%, 45%, 40% and 85% in SWNT, SAP-f-SWNT, DWNT, MWNT and XD-CNT/VE composites, respectively. This study provides a detailed understanding of how the properties of, nanocomposites are determined by the composite mixing parameters and the distribution, concentration, shape and size of the CNTs. Importantly, it indicates the importance of the need for dispersion metrics to correlate and understand these properties.
Engineering; Materials science