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Keywords:

  • swelling;
  • nanotubes;
  • graphene and fullerenes;
  • sensors and actuators

ABSTRACT

Multiwalled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were used as the conductive filler of composites for switching type humidity sensor. The CNTs were oxidized by mixed acids (H2SO4 : HNO3) at a mild temperature to modify carboxylic acid (COOH) groups on the surface of the nanotubes. The dispersibility of acid treated CNTs (CNTs-COOH) in water is much improved, which is beneficial for dispersing CNTs in the polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) matrix without external additives. The obtained CNTs-COOH/PVA sensors show nonlinear response to relative humidity (RH), that is, switching properties. The resistances of the sensors remain constant before 80% relative humidity (RH) and then increase sharply with RH, indicating excellent switching characteristic of the sensors. The 10 wt % CNTs-COOH/PVA sensor shows a sensitivity (ΔR/Ro) of 32.3 at 100% RH. The humidity switching properties of CNTs-COOH/PVA are much better than that of pristine CNTs/PVA. The improvements are attributed to the improved balance between the dispersibility of CNTs-COOH and electrical conductivity of the composite films. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 39726.