By Cameron Chai
A novel form of buckypapers or carbon nanotube sheets developed by a research team has eliminated their major drawback.
Carbon nanotubes are nanomaterials that have a weight of 10-fold lesser and a strength of 250-fold higher than that of steel. They are useful in a variety of applications ranging from next-generation batteries to body armor. The research team has reported its finding in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society.
According to Christopher Y. Li and his colleagues, there are many methods available for synthesizing a buckypaper, named for Buckminsterfullerene (carbon 60). The buckypaper is very strong and has superior heat and electrical conductivity properties.
This space-age material is synthesized through the deposition of an ultrathin entangled carbon nanotube layer to form a fiber mat similar to an office paper. Li and his teammates explained that existing post-processing technique does not allow scientists to enlarge the size of the pore or small holes between the nanotubes after the creation of the buckypaper. Li's team developed a process to increase the pore size and to introduce other materials to buckypapers in order to make them suitable for electronic applications or as sensors.
The research team grew individual polymer crystals around the carbon nanotubes in order to control the size of the pores. The team named the structure as a ‘shish kebab’ structure wherein the flat crystals are the kebabs whereas the nanotubes serve as the skewers. Li showed that the crystals enable scientists to control the size of the pores and modify the buckypaper’s surface roughness, conductivity and water-shedding abilities.