Increased Tensile Strength of Carbon Nanotube Yarns and Sheets through Chemical Modification and Electron Beam Irradiation

S.G. Miller, T.S. Williams, J.S. Baker, F. Solá, M. Lebron-Colon, L.S. McCorkle, N.G. Wilmoth, J. Gaier, M. Chen, M.A. Meador
NASA Glenn Research Center, US

Keywords: carbon nanotubes, graphene, CNT


The inherent strength of individual carbon nanotubes offers considerable opportunity for the development of advanced, lightweight composite structures. Recent work in the fabrication and application of carbon nanotube (CNT) forms such as yarns and sheets has addressed early nanocomposite limitations with respect to nanotube dispersion and loading; and has pushed the technology toward structural composite applications. However, the high tensile strength of an individual CNT has not directly translated to macro-scale CNT forms where bulk material strength is limited by inter-tube electrostatic attraction and slippage. The focus of this work was to assess post processing of CNT sheet and yarn to improve the macro-scale strength of these material forms. Both small molecule functionalization and e-beam irradiation was evaluated as a means to enhance tensile strength and Young’s modulus of the bulk CNT material. Mechanical testing results revealed a tensile strength increase in CNT sheets by 57% when functionalized, while an additional 48% increase in tensile strength was observed when functionalized sheets were irradiated; compared to unfunctionalized sheets. Similarly, small molecule functionalization increased yarn tensile strength up to 25%, whereas irradiation of the functionalized yarns pushed the tensile strength to 88% beyond that of the baseline yarn.