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Keywords:

  • Carbon nanotube composites;
  • Poly(methyl methacrylate);
  • Polymer composites;
  • Structure–property relationships

Abstract

Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)-functionalized multiwalled carbon nanotubes are prepared by in situ polymerization. Infrared absorbance studies reveal covalent bonding between polymer strands and the nanotubes. These treated nanotubes are blended with pure PMMA in solution before drop-casting to form composite films. Increases in Young's modulus, breaking strength, ultimate tensile strength, and toughness of ×1.9, ×4.7, ×4.6, and ×13.7, respectively, are observed on the addition of less than 0.5 wt % of nanotubes. Effective reinforcement is only observed up to a nanotube content of approximately 0.1 vol %. Above this volume fraction, all mechanical parameters tend to fall off, probably due to nanotube aggregation. In addition, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) studies of composite fracture surfaces show a polymer layer coating the nanotubes after film breakage. The fact that the polymer and not the interface fails suggests that functionalization results in an extremely high polymer/nanotube interfacial shear strength.