Improving the electrical and mechanical properties of carbon-nanotube-based fibers

February 18, 2020

The Lyding Group recently developed a technique that can be used to build carbon-nanotube-based fibers by creating chemical crosslinks. The technique improves the electrical and mechanical properties of these materials.

The paper, "Enhanced Electrical and Mechanical Properties of Chemically Cross-Linked Carbon-Nanotube-Based Fibers and Their Application in High-Performance Supercapacitors," was published in ACS Nano.

"Carbon nanotubes are strong and are very good at conducting heat and electricity," said Gang Wang, a postdoctoral research associate in the Lyding lab, which is at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Therefore, these materials have wide applications and can be used as strong fibers, batteries, and transistors."

There are many ways to build materials that have carbon-nanotube-based fibers. "Airplane wings can be made, for example, by embedding these fibers in a matrix using epoxy," said Joseph Lyding, the Robert C. MacClinchie Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a Beckman faculty member. "The epoxy acts as a binder and holds the matrix together."

However, combining the tubes to make such materials can lead to a loss in important properties. "We came up with a method to bring a lot of that performance back," Lyding said. "The method is based on linking the individual carbon nanotubes together."

The researchers dispersed brominated hydrocarbon molecules within the nanotube matrix. When heat is applied, the bromine groups detach, and the molecules covalently bond to adjacent nanotubes.

"When you pass current though these materials, the resistance to the current is highest at the junctions where the nanotubes touch each other," Lyding said. "As a result, heat is generated at the junctions and we use that heat to link the nanotubes together."

The treatment is a one-time process. "Once those bonds form, the resistance at the junction drops, and the material cools off. It's like popcorn going off -- once it pops, that's it," Lyding said.

The researchers faced many challenges when they were trying to build these materials. "We have to find the right molecules to use and the proper conditions to make those bonds," Wang said. "We had to try several times to find the right current and then use the resulting material to build other devices."

"This paper is the first step in making a new class of materials. It is likely that the performance we see now will become better because it has not been explored fully yet," Lyding said. "We are interested in investigating how strong we can make these materials, how we can improve their electrical conductivity, and whether we can replace copper wires with materials that are 10 times lower in weight and have the same performance."
The study was carried out using seed funding from the Beckman Institute.

Editor's notes:

To reach Joseph Lyding, call 217-333-8370; email

The paper "Enhanced Electrical and Mechanical Properties of Chemically Cross-Linked Carbon-Nanotube-Based Fibers and Their Application in High-Performance Supercapacitors" can be found online and from the Beckman Institute.

Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology

Related Nanotubes Articles from Brightsurf:

Nanotubes in the eye that help us see
A new mechanism of blood redistribution that is essential for the proper functioning of the adult retina has just been discovered in vivo by researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM).

How plantains and carbon nanotubes can improve cars
Researchers from the University of Johannesburg have shown that plantain, a starchy type of banana, is a promising renewable source for an emerging type of lighter, rust-free composite materials for the automotive industry.

Exotic nanotubes move in less-mysterious ways
Rice University researchers capture the first video of boron nitride nanotubes in motion to prove their potential for materials and medical applications.

Groovy key to nanotubes in 2D
New research offers a groovy answer to the question of what causes carbon nanotubes to align in ultrathin crystalline films discovered at Rice.

Growing carbon nanotubes with the right twist
Researchers synthetize nanotubes with a specific structure expanding previous theories on carbon nanotube growth.

Clean carbon nanotubes with superb properties
Scientists at Aalto University, Finland, and Nagoya University, Japan, have found a new way to make ultra-clean carbon nanotube transistors with superior semiconducting properties.

Watching energy transport through biomimetic nanotubes
Scientists from the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) and the University of W├╝rzburg (Germany) have investigated a simple biomimetic light-harvesting system using advanced spectroscopy combined with a microfluidic platform.

Neural networks will help manufacture carbon nanotubes
A team of scientists from Skoltech's Laboratory of Nanomaterials proposed a neural-network-based method for monitoring the growth of carbon nanotubes, preparing the ground for a new generation of sophisticated electronic devices.

Photovoltaic nanotubes
Physicists discovered a novel kind of nanotube that generates current in the presence of light.

Chemical synthesis of nanotubes
For the first time, researchers used benzene -- a common hydrocarbon -- to create a novel kind of molecular nanotube, which could lead to new nanocarbon-based semiconductor applications.

Read More: Nanotubes News and Nanotubes Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to