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A new processing method has been developed to combine a polymer and single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) to form electrically conductive composites with desirable rheological and mechanical properties. The process involves coating polystyrene (PS) pellets with SWCNTs and then hot pressing to make a contiguous, cellular SWCNT structure. By this method, the electrical percolation threshold decreases and the electrical conductivity increases significantly as compared to composites with a well-dispersed SWCNTs. For example, a SWCNT / PS composite with 0.5 wt% nanotubes and made by this coated particle process (CPP) has an electrical conductivity of ~ 3 x 10-4 S/cm, while a well-dispersed composite made by a coagulation method with the same SWCNT amount has an electrical conductivity of only ~ 10-8 S/cm. The rheological properties of the composite with a macroscopic cellular SWCNT structure are comparable to PS, while the well-dispersed composite exhibits a solid-like behavior, indicating that composites made by this new CPP method are more processable. In addition, the mechanical properties of the CPP-made composite decrease only slightly, as compared with PS. Relative to the common appoach of seeking better dispersion, this new fabrication method provides an important alternative means to higher electrical conductivity in SWCNT / polymer composites. Our straightforward particle coating and pressing method avoids organic solvents and is suitable for large-scale, inexpensive processing using a wide variety of polymer and nanoparticles.
single wall carbon nanotube, polymer nanocomposite, polystyrene
Date Posted: 29 April 2008
This document has been peer reviewed.