Impact of nanotube density and alignment on the elastic modulus near the top and base surfaces of aligned multi-walled carbon nanotube films

Gao, Y., Kodama, T., Won, Y., Dogbe, S., Pan, L., and Goodson, K.E., 2012, "Impact of Nanotube Density and Alignment on the Elastic Modulus near the Top and Base Surfaces of Aligned Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotube Films," Carbon, Vol. 50, pp. 3789-3798.

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The mechanical compliance of vertically aligned carbon nanotube (VACNT) films renders them promising as interface materials that can accommodate thermal expansion mismatch. Here we study the relationship between the detailed morphology and elastic modulus of multi-walled VACNT films with thicknesses ranging from 98 to 1300 μm. A systematic analysis of scanning electron micrographs reveals variations in nanotube alignment and density among samples and within different regions of a given film. Nanoindentation of both top and bottom film surfaces using an atomic force microscope with spherical indenters with radii between 15 and 25 μm provides evidence of the modulus differences. The top surface is shown to have a higher modulus than the base, with out-of-plane modulus values of 1.0–2.8 MPa (top) and 0.2–1.4 MPa (base). The indentation data and microstructural information obtained from electron microscopy are interpreted together using an open cell foam model to account for differences in nanotube alignment and density, which are generally lower at the base and yield predictions that are consistent with the modulus data trends. This work shows that microstructure analysis complements property measurements to improve our understanding of nanostructured materials.

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