Plenary Lecture

Carbon Nanotube Superfiber Development

Professor Mark J. Schulz
Co-Authors: Vesselin Shanov, Dong Qian, Murali Sundaram, Kumar Vemaganti, Yijun Liu, Weifeng Li, Noe Alvarez, Brad Ruff, Arvind Krishnaswamy, Ge(Lucy) Li, Wenwei Jiang, Rohit Parlapalli, Aaron Johnson, Mark Haase, Anshuman Sowani, Rajiv Venkatasubramanian
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Cincinnati (UC)
Ohio, USA
E-mail: Mark.J.Schulz@uc.edu

Abstract: The goal of this research is to modify carbon nanotube synthesis and processing in order to develop a carbon nanotube superfiber material with properties that exceed those of existing fiber materials. Scaling-up superfiber manufacturing for commercialization is also a goal of the research. Superfiber is formed by synthesizing arrays of aligned carbon nanotubes, possibly post-treating the arrays, and possibly spinning the arrays into fibers. The scope of the research is to produce different forms of superfiber including yarn, braid, sheet, and fabric materials. The superior properties and different material forms will open up new parameter spaces and allow designers to develop revolutionary engineering designs across many industry segments. As an example, we predict that eventually most advanced composite materials will have some form of “Nano Inside.” Intense experimental, analytical and computational technical efforts are underway to scale up of the extraordinary properties of nanotubes to the bulk fibrous materials. Prototype macro scale yarns and sheet are being manufactured using nanotubes. But a major technical challenge has been that defects occur during manufacturing of long aligned nanotube arrays. The defects are preventing scaling up the properties of nanotubes to macro scale material forms. To overcome the problem of defects occurring when growing very long nanotubes, new methods including substrate engineering, thermal healing of defects, micro-spinning, and coating are being investigated. This research is crucial because carbon nanotube array synthesis and yarn formation are highly specialized technologies and many industries are standing by on the sidelines waiting for superfiber materials to be developed. Once the technology is available, industries will rush to supplement or replace their incumbent materials such as copper, aluminum, and carbon fiber with superfiber materials that are lighter, tougher, stronger, and carry more electrical current. The research to be described is closing the gap between the properties of short research grade nanotubes and commercial nanotube bulk materials. The basic research is working on transitioning from nanotubes which are long molecules to fiber materials that can be used in manufacturing. The research is providing a better understanding why nanotubes have defects, why nanotubes stop growing, why yarn does not achieve the strength of nanotubes, and how to overcome these barriers. An academic-corporate collaboration has also been formed to transition the new technology into applications. The technology part of the research is to design new spinning and post processing machinery for long nanotubes that allow manufacturing scale up and commercialization. The intellectual novelty of this research is critical in terms of engineering because it will enable industries to manufacture new textile materials which could revolutionize the engineering designs of many everyday products. This research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation in the USA. Dr. Bruce Kramer and Dr. Grace Wang are the Program Directors.

Brief Biography of the Speaker: Mark J. Schulz is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director with Dr. Vesselin Shanov of the NanoWorld Laboratories at the University of Cincinnati. He is also one of the deputy directors of the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials. Mark’s research focus is in the area of smart materials and nanotechnology. The Nanoworld Laboratories synthesize carbon nanotubes and process the nanotubes into intermediate materials such as yarn and sheet. The intermediate materials are a new kind of structural and electronic “raw material” that is used to build multifunctional and smart materials and devices for engineering and medical use. Mark is also Coordinator of Advanced Concepts at General Nano (GN) LLC, a nanoengineering company in Cincinnati, OH, USA (http://generalnanollc.com). GN commercializes carbon nanotube material called Black CottonTM for engineering and medical device applications.

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