The study of crystallization and interfacial morphology in polymer/carbon nanotube composites

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Minus, Marilyn Lillith
Kumar, Satish
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This study illustrates the ability of SWNT to nucleate and template polymer crystallization and orientation, and produce materials with improved properties and unique polymer morphologies. This research work focuses primarily on the physical interaction between single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) and the flexible polymer system polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). Polymer crystallization in the near vicinity of SWNT (interphase) has been studied to understand the capability of SWNT in influence polymer morphology in bulk films and fibers. Fibrillar crystallization was achieved by shearing PVA/SWNT dispersions and resulted in the formation of oriented PVA/SWNT fibers or ribbons, while PVA solutions produce unoriented fibers. PVA single crystals were grown in PVA solutions as well as PVA/SWNT dispersions over a period of several months at room temperature (25 C). PVA single crystal growth in PVA/SWNT dispersions is templated by SWNT, and these crystals show the presence of new morphologies for PVA. PVA single crystals of differing morphology were also grown at elevated temperatures, and show morphology dependant electron beam irradiation resistance. Gel-spinning was used to produce PVA, and PVA/SWNT fibers where, PVA crystallization in the bulk fiber was observed. With 1 wt% SWNT loading in PVA, the fiber tensile strength increased from 1.6 GPa for the control PVA to 2.6 GPa for PVA/SWNT. Analysis of this data suggests stress of up to ~120 GPa on the SWNT. This is the highest reported stress on the SWNT to date and confirm excellent reinforcement and load transfer of SWNT in the PVA matrix. Raman spectroscopy data show high SWNT alignment in the fiber where the ratio is measured to be 106. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM) is used to characterize polymer morphology near the polymer-SWNT interface for PVA/SWNT fibers. HR-TEM studies of Polymer/CNT composites show distinct morphological differences at the polymer-SWNT interface/interphase for semi-crystalline and amorphous polymer systems which may be related to polymer-SWNT interaction in the composite. Studies on polymer crystallization, carbon nanotube (CNT)/polymer composite, and polymer composite interfacial literature in summarized in Chapter 1. Fibrillar crystallization of PVA and PVA/SWNT is presented in Chapter 2. PVA single crystal grown at varying temperatures is discussed in Chapter 3, followed by single crystal growth studies in PVA/SWNT dispersions in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 summarizes the gel-spinning studies of PVA and PVA/SWNT fibers. Conclusions and recommendations for future work pertaining to this study are given in Chapter 6. Results of HR-TEM studies on other polymer/SWNT composites are given in Appendix A, Appendix B summarizes work on PE crystallization in the SWNT/DMF dispersions, and studies of PVA and PVA/SWNT gel films are summarized in Appendix C.
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