07/02/2003 Archived Entry: "Ultrahigh Strength Carbon Nanotube Composite Fibers Award"

Rodney Andrews of the UK Center for Applied Energy Research and Mark Meier of the UK Chemistry Department have been selected to receive an award from the Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation (KSEF). The project is entitled "Ultrahigh Strength Carbon Nanotube Composite Fibers" and has a value of $60,000 over a two-year period.
Multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWNT) can be thought of as the ultimate carbon fiber. These tiny tubes, composed of concentric shells of carbon atoms, offer unique mechanical properties unattainable with existing materials. The researchers intend to develop a process to harness these remarkable mechanical properties, yielding a new engineering material capitalizing on the high strength, modulus, and flexibility of the MWNT.

The aim of the work is to create an engineering fiber consisting primarily of interlocked MWNTs bonded together with polymer-derived carbon welds. To insure these welds are strong, chemical modification of the surfaces of the MWNTs will be tailored to result in chemical bonding with the polymer binder. Furthermore, attention to the surfaces of these fibers to reduce the presence of tiny cracks will maximize the structural integrity of the fiber. Dispersed MWNTs in an epoxy binder solution will be extruded and drawn into fiber and collected. Heating these fibers to temperatures greater than 1400 C will serve to convert the polymer binder into carbon welds and densify the fiber. The resulting composite fiber, of very high strength and modulus, will effectively exploit the unique mechanical properties of the MWNTs in a usable engineering material.

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