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April 04, 2007

Researchers Fine Tune Nanotube/Nylon Composite Using Carbon Spacers

More progress on making stronger materials. Stronger materials means existing products can have the same strength but be lighter. Light weight can mean greater fuel efficiency. With enough strength entirely new applications become possible, such as space elevators.

Physorg.com brings word of carbon nanotube composites A team of University of Pennsylvania and Rice University researchers have added a significant new step to the creation of materials fortified by single-walled carbon nanotubes, or SWNTs, resulting in a nylon polymer composite with greater strength and toughness and opening the door for researchers to broadly improve the mechanical properties of such composites at the molecular level.

The carbon spacers act as linking segments, covalently bonding the nanotubes and nylon chains, improving both the toughness of the material and the strength. Previous attempts to create a carbon nanotube/nylon composite had resulted in a brittle material, a problem solved by the addition of these carbon spacers.

The resulting nanocomposites with the covalent bond exhibit as much as 160 percent higher modulus, 160 percent higher strength and 140 percent higher toughness.

"Nanotechnology is providing new composite materials with tunable mechanical properties," said Karen I. Winey, professor of materials science and engineering and also chemical and biomolecular engineering at Penn. "By adding covalently bonded carbon spacers to the filler-matrix interface in these composite, we have significantly improved their mechanical properties and perhaps demonstrated a broadly applicable approach to nanocomposite design."

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