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Queen Mary University of LondonQueen Mary University of London
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School of Engineering and Materials Science
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PhD Thesis: Development of Ceramic – Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Nanocomposites

Author: INAM, Fawad

Year: 2009

Supervisor(s): Ton Peijs, Mike Reece

The increasing availability of nanopowders and nanotubes combined with new processing techniques is enabling the development of new multifunctional materials. Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) are one of the recently discovered allotropic forms of carbon. They have exceptional mechanical, electrical and thermal properties. The application of CNTs in the reinforcement of ceramic nanocomposites has not yet been fully investigated and is the subject of this study. Alumina is the main matrix used in this study. CNTs need to be de-agglomerated and homogeneously distributed in ceramic nanocomposites. Dimethylformamide (DMF) produces fine and stable CNT and alumina dispersions. All nanocomposites were sintered by Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS). Nanocomposites prepared using DMF dispersions showed better dispersions, higher electrical conductivity and mechanical properties as compared to those prepared using ethanol dispersions. The addition of CNTs or Carbon Black (CB) to alumina significantly aids its densification. The CNTs produce significant grain growth retardation. CNTs were found to be well preserved in alumina after being SPSed up to 1900 C. Structural preservation of CNTs in ceramic nanocomposites depends on the nature of ceramic and SPS processing conditions. The electrical conductivity of alumina – CNT nanocomposites is four times higher as compared to alumina – CB nanocomposites due to the fibrous nature and high aspect ratio of CNTs. Alumina coated CNTs were used for better interfacial adhesion with the matrix. Oxidative resistance of CNTs was increased by coating them with alumina and by decreasing the grain boundary area in alumina – CNT nanocomposites. Coated and uncoated CNTs showed higher mechanical reinforcement in alumina nanocomposite as compared to CB. The future for ceramic – CNT nanocomposites is very bright, especially for applications associated with the electrical and thermal properties. Apart from a good understanding of nanocomposites, the commercial development of CNT based technologies heavily relies on the availability and price of CNTs.

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