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Alignment and Load Transfer in Carbon Nanotube and Dicyclopentadiene Composites

  • Author(s): Severino, Joseph Vincent
  • Advisor(s): Yang, Jenn-Ming
  • et al.
Abstract

Individual carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are the strongest materials available but their macroscopic assemblies are weak. This work establishes a new thermosetting dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) and CNT composite that increases the strength of CNT assemblies. These high volume fraction and void free structures constitute advanced materials that could one day replace traditional composite systems. To further the understanding of physical interactions between polymer and CNTs, a novel “capstan” load transfer mechanism is also introduced. Self-supporting assemblies of interconnected carbon nanotubes were stretched, twisted and compressed to fashion composites by the infusion and polymerization of low viscosity DCPD based monomeric resins. The properties of the CNTs, polymer and composite were characterized with thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA), dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) and Raman spectroscopy. The microstructure was analyzed by wide angle X-ray scattering (WAXS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Sheets were drawn at 15 m/min from a growth furnace to impart alignment then stretched to further modify alignment. The mechanical properties were determined in five orientations with respect to the growth direction. The strength was nearly three times higher along this growth direction than it was perpendicular, and modulus was nearly six times higher. Transverse stretching achieved 1.5 times the elongation but alignment was inferior due to CNT kinking that prevented alignment and consolidation.

Composites yarns and sheets were investigated for the mechanical properties, microstructure and load transfer. The DCPD resin was found to wet the CNTs and lubricated deformation. This reduced loads during processing, and curing solidified the aligned and consolidated structure. The stretched and twisted composite yarns increased the failure stress 51%. In aligned composite sheet, the failure stress increased 200%. The increased stresses were attributed to load transfer by a capstan mechanism that utilized the kinked CNTs that formed as a result of stretching. This mechanism reflects the tortuous structure of real CNT assemblies.

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