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Comment Processing & Handling

Carbon nanotube technology toughens carbon-fiber composite materials

By Scott Jenkins |

vertically aligned CNTsUnder mechanical stress, carbon-reinforced epoxy-resin composite materials can experience cracking and de-lamination at the junctures between layers of material, where the composites are resin-rich. Placing vertically aligned carbon nanotubes (VACNTs) into the inter-laminar regions can toughen the composite and prevent cracking between layers.

N12 Technologies Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.; www.n12technologies.com) has developed the world’s first commercially viable manufacturing process for introducing VACNTs into the inter-laminar region of carbon-fiber composites. Known as NanoStitch, the technology transfers VACNTs into the inter-laminar regions of the composites, binding the plies of composite material together and preventing cracking and de-lamination.

The VACNTs look like nanoscale forests, where trillions of precisely aligned nanotubes (photo) are oriented perpendicular to the plane in which the layers of carbon-fiber epoxy composites are being assembled, explains Paul Jarosz, director of science and technology at N12. Introducing VACNTs to the interlaminar region increases shear strength and toughness of the composite material, while adding no weight or thickness. Also, composites with NanoStitch conduct heat and electricity between layers better than conventional composites, allowing functional materials, N12 says.

N12 licensed the NanoStitch technology from the academic laboratory of Brian Wardle at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, Mass.; www.mit.edu). N12 has since increased the production rate of the VACNT-strengthened carbon fibers by several orders of magnitude, allowing customers to test the NanoStitch composites. NanoStitch is compatible with industry standard manufacturing methods for composites, the company says.

Now, N12 is working with partners, including the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI; Ohio; www.udri.udayton.edu), to further scale up the production process by another “several orders of magnitude,” says Jarosz.

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