Effect of scale and surface chemistry on the mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes-based composites



In this article, Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes (MWCNTs) of varying diameters, both untreated and polycarboxylated, were dispersed at constant weight percentage in an epoxy matrix, and resulting fracture toughnesses (KIc) were measured in each case. We show that changing the MWCNT diameter has two effects on the composite fracture toughness: (i) a small MWCNT diameter enables larger interfacial surface for adhesion maximization, which increases toughness; (ii) at the same time, it limits the available pull-out energy and reduces the MWCNT ability to homogeneously disperse in the matrix due to this same large active surface: this decreases toughness. Most commercially available MWCNTs have a length range of several μm, thus an optimal diameter exists which depends on MWCNT wall thickness and surface treatment. Such optimal diameter maximizes pull-out energy and thus composite fracture toughness. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys, 2012