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Publication numberUS20070053825 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/380,697
Publication dateMar 8, 2007
Filing dateApr 28, 2006
Priority dateApr 29, 2005
Publication number11380697, 380697, US 2007/0053825 A1, US 2007/053825 A1, US 20070053825 A1, US 20070053825A1, US 2007053825 A1, US 2007053825A1, US-A1-20070053825, US-A1-2007053825, US2007/0053825A1, US2007/053825A1, US20070053825 A1, US20070053825A1, US2007053825 A1, US2007053825A1
InventorsChristopher Li, Lingyu Li
Original AssigneeLi Christopher Y, Lingyu Li
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Modified carbon nanotubes using controlled polymer crystallization
US 20070053825 A1
Abstract
A process for the modification of carbon fibers and/or carbon nanotubes, including 1-dimensional nanowire and nanofiber structures. In the process, certain polymeric materials are crystallized on a surface of the carbon fibers and/or carbon nanotubes. The crystallization process may be carried out under controlled conditions to produce a variety of useful modifications, including modifications at discrete intervals, as well as functional modifications. Also disclosed are carbon fibers, carbon nanotubes and nano-hybrid structures made by the modification process of the present invention.
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Claims(18)
1. A method for the modification of carbon fibers or carbon nanotubes comprising the step of:
crystallizing a polymeric material on a surface of the carbon fibers or carbon nanotubes.
2. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the carbon fibers or carbon nanotubes are modified at substantially periodic intervals on a surface of the carbon fibers or carbon nanotubes.
3. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein functional groups are attached to said polymeric material prior to, during or subsequent to said crystallization step.
4. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein said carbon fibers or carbon nanotubes comprise 1-dimensional nanowire structures and 1-dimensional nanofiber structures.
5. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein said carbon nanotubes are selected from the group consisting of single-walled carbon nanotubes and multi-walled carbon nanotubes.
6. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the crystallization step comprises solution crystallization.
7. A method as claimed in claim 6, wherein, prior to the crystallization step, said carbon nanotubes are unbundled.
8. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein said polymeric material is selected from the group consisting of polyolefins, nylons, polyethylene oxide and poly(phenylene sulfide).
9. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein said polymeric material is selected from the group consisting of polyethylene, polypropylene and nylon 6,6.
10. A method as claimed in claim 6, wherein the carbon fibers or carbon nanotubes are present at a concentration of 0.001%-1% by weight, based on a total weight of a solution employed in the solution crystallization step.
11. A method as claimed in claim 10, wherein the polymeric material is present at a concentration of 0.01% to about 1% by weight, based on a total weight of a solution employed in the solution crystallization step.
12. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein a crystallization time for the crystallization step is from about 0.1 hours to about 10 hours.
13. A method as claimed in claim 1, further comprising the step of removing a portion of the polymeric material from a surface of the carbon fiber or carbon nanotube, subsequent to said crystallization step.
14. A method as claimed in claim 13, further comprising the step of applying a second polymeric material to said carbon fiber or carbon nanotube, subsequent to said step of removing a portion of said first polymeric material from a surface of said carbon fiber or carbon nanotube.
15. Carbon fibers and carbon nanotubes made by the process of claim 1.
16. Carbon fibers and carbon nanotubes as claimed in claim 15, having a periodicity of functionalization by said polymeric material of about 20 to about 120 nm.
17. Carbon fibers and carbon nanotubes made by the process of claim 3.
18. Carbon fibers and carbon nanotubes made by the process of claim 14.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to the provision of modified carbon nanotubes. More particularly, the present invention relates to the use of controlled polymer crystallization to modify carbon nanotubes, including 1-dimensional nanowire and nanofiber structures, and to the resultant modified carbon nanotubes.

2. Description of the Related Technology Due to their extraordinary mechanical, electrical and optical properties, carbon nanotubes (hereinafter, “CNTs”) have attracted significant attention in recent years.[1-3] In order to transfer their outstanding properties from nano- to micro-scale, one essential step involves assembly and processing of CNTs,[4, 5] which is hindered by their intrinsic poor solubility and processibility.[6-10] It has been recognized that, to disperse CNTs for processing purposes, their surface has to be modified. This has led to the emergence of the field of CNT functionalization. [11, 12] Both chemical functionalization techniques and non-covalent wrapping methods have been employed for this purpose.[13-20]

The chemical functionalization technique involves covalently linking a functional group directly to the CNT surface or, to sites of surface defects. One example of this is CNT-bound carboxylic acids.[13-16] The non-covalent wrapping method involves using surfactants, oligomers, biomolecules and/or polymers to “wrap” CNTs in order to enhance their solubility. A number of surfactants, as well as a number of rigid, conjugated molecules, have been successfully used to modify CNT surface chemistry in this manner. It is postulated that these molecules form strong π-stacking with CNT'S, thereby resulting in CNT's coated by surfactant/functional molecules. In this manner, CNT surface properties can be altered. Smalley et al. proposed the use of water-soluble polymers such as polyvinyl pyrrolidone (PVP) and polystyrene sulfonate (PSS) to enhance the solubility of CNT's in water.[17]

In another parallel research field, carbon materials, in various forms, have been known to induce polymer crystallization. [21-27] Epitaxial growth of polymers such as polyethylene (PE), Nylon 6, and similar materials has been observed, for example, on graphite surfaces using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques.[21-23] Carbon fibers (CFs), which are about 10 μm in diameter, have been used to induce polymer crystallization (transcrystallization).[24-27] It has also been demonstrated that a number of polymers (such as polypropylene, PE, Nylon 6,6, and poly(phenylene sulfide), can epitaxially grow on the surface of CFs.[24-27]

Accordingly, it is an object of certain embodiments of the present invention to provide an alternative method for the surface modification of carbon fiber's and/or carbon nanotubes.

It is also an object of certain embodiments of the present invention to provide surface modified carbon fibers and/or carbon nanotubes having improved processability and/or solubility.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In a first aspect, the present invention relates to a process for the modification of carbon fibers and/or carbon nanotubes, including 1-dimensional nanowire and nanofiber structures. In the process, certain polymeric materials are crystallized on a surface of the carbon fibers and/or carbon nanotubes. The crystallization process may be carried out under controlled conditions to produce a variety of useful modifications, including modifications at discrete intervals, as well as functional modifications.

In a second aspect, the present invention relates to carbon fibers, carbon nanotubes and nano-hybrid structures made by the modification process of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 a shows a scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of MWNTs that have been surface modified with polyethylene.

FIG. 1 b shows a TEM micrograph of a similar structure without platinum shadowing.

FIG. 1 c is a schematic representation of a nano-hybrid structure.

FIG. 2 a is an SEM image that shows that MWNTs are modified by Nylon 6,6 single crystals.

FIG. 2 b is a TEM image of Nylon 6,6/MWNT NHSK structures, the inset of FIG. 2 b shows an enlarged section.

FIG. 3 shows a TEM micrograph of a PE/SWNT NHSK produced by crystallization of PE on SWNTs at 104° C. in p-xylene for 0.5 hrs.

FIG. 4 a shows a TEM micrograph of a NHSK obtained by crystallizing Nylon 6, 6/MWNT/glycerin solution at 172° C. for 0.5 hrs.

FIG. 4 b shows an SEM micrograph of Nylon 6, 6 spherulites formed by using NHSK (shown in FIG. 2 a) as seeds to further crystallize pure Nylon 6,6 at 185° C.

FIG. 4 c shows the formation process of CNT-containing Nylon 6,6 spherulites.

FIGS. 5 a-5 c show TEM images of PE/MWNT-10 NHSK (a), PE/MWNT-25 NHSK (b), and PE/CNF NHSK structures produced by crystallization of PE on different CNTs and CNF in p-xylene for 0.5 h at 103, 97, and 97 C. The PE, MWNT, and CNF concentrations are 0.01, 0.002, and 0.002 wt %, respectively.

FIG. 6 shows an SEM micrograph of PE periodically functionalized CNFs produced by crystallization of PE on CNTs at 97° C. inp-xylene for 0.5 h. Random orientation of PE lamellae can be clearly seen on the CNF surface. The PE and CNF concentrations are 0.01 and 0.002 wt %, respectively.

FIGS. 7 a-7 b show TEM micrographs of PE periodically functionalized SWNTs produced by crystallization of PE on SWNTs in DCB at different temperatures for 1 hour. FIG. 7 a shows that at 91° C., PE did not crystallize in DCB. FIG. 7 b shows that at 89° C., PE periodically functionalized SWNTs and NHSK were formed. The PE and SWNT concentrations are 0.01 and 0.02 wt %, respectively.

FIG. 7 c shows the appearance of three samples made by crystallizing PE in dichlorobenzene (DCB) in the presence of SWNT at different temperatures (91, 89, and 87° C.). The PE and SWNT concentrations are 0.01 and 0.02 wt %, respectively.

FIG. 8 shows a TEM micrograph of PE/SWNT NHSK produced by crystallization of PE on SWNTs in DCB at 88° C. for 3 hours. The PE and SWNT concentrations are 0.02 and 0.01 wt %, respectively.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In a first aspect, the present invention relates to a method for the surface modification of CFs and CNTs, including 1-dimensional nanowire and nanofiber structures. In the method, the technique of controlled polymer crystallization is employed. It is envisaged that if CNT induced polymer crystallization occurs, such crystallized polymers would form a crystalline layer on CNTs. The formed polymer layer would “wrap” the CNTs and therefore provide a form of surface modification. By controlling crystallization conditions, polymer single crystals can be associated with both single-walled and multi-walled CNTs (SWNTs and MWNTs). Moreover, the polymer crystals can be associated with the CNTs at periodic intervals along the surface of the CNTs in order to provide additional benefits.

The location of the polymer single crystals on the surface of the CNTs can be controlled to within about 20-70 nm using the techniques of certain embodiments of the present invention. Polymer nanocomposites with controlled tube-to-tube distance can also be prepared using the techniques of certain embodiments of the present invention. Since polymeric material can be easily removed by etching/dissolution, the method of the present invention provides a route for introducing multiple functionalities onto individual CNTs at well-defined intervals.

In order to achieve controlled modification of CNTs, a polymer solution crystallization technique is employed. CNTs are unbundled, preferably in a dilute polymer solution using any suitable technique, such as ultrasonication. Before reagglomeration of the unbundled CNTs occurs, the CNT/polymer solution is brought to the crystallization temperature (Tc) of the polymer resulting in crystallization of the polymer on the surface of the CNTs to produce CNT/polymer hybrid nanostructures.

Any suitable polymer that crystallizes onto a carbon substrate can be used in the present invention. Preferably, polymers that form single crystals upon solution crystallization are employed. Also, the preferred polymers are hydrophilic. Suitable polymers, include, but are not limited to, polypropylene, polyethylene, Nylon 6,6, polyethylene oxide and poly(phenylene sulfide).

A distinct morphology formed in polymer solution crystallization is known as “polymer shish-kebab”. Polymer crystals consist of a central elongated stem, around which many disc-shaped objects are grown. The central stem is PE single crystals formed by stretched polymer chains and the disc-shaped objects are folded PE lamellar crystals. FIG. 1 c shows the schematic representation of a typical PE shish-kebab structure: The central stem is about 20-30 nm in diameter and is also referred as the “shish”. The surrounding folded lamellae are known as the “kebabs”. This peculiar morphology is formed when polymer crystallizes in a shear/extension flow field.

One typical example is crystallizing polyethylene/p-xylene solution (about 5%) under stirring. First, under external flow field, polymer chains might undergo a coil-to-stretch transition, which leads to the formation of stretched polymers. The stretched polymers then nucleate and form fibrous crystals. Coil polymer chains could migrate and epitaxially crystallize upon the stretched polymer chains forming folded lamellae. For a typical PE shish-kebab morphology, the folded lamellar crystals periodically grow along the central stem. The periodicity is about 110 nm and the central fiber is about 20 nm. The lateral size of the kebabs depends on the crystallization time and it varies from a few tens of nanometers to a few micrometers.

The formation of the “nano hybrid shish-kebab” (hereinafter “NHSK”) structures is attributed to the controlled polymer crystallization on the surface of the CNTs. The nucleation process begins after the CNTs and polymer are dispersed in a solvent at a relatively high temperature (120° C.). The temperature of the mixture consisting of unbundled, unmodified CNTs and free polymer chains, is then lowered to the polymer crystallization temperature for crystallization.

Agglomeration of the unbundled CNTs into bundled CNTs typically occurs within about 0.5 hrs for pure CNT in a p-xylene solvent because unbundled CNTs are not stable. With additional polymeric material in the system, however, three processes could occur: (1) polymer crystallization, via homogeneous nucleation; (2) polymer crystallization on the surface of the CNTs via secondary nucleation; and (3) CNT agglomeration. Since CNTs have external surface area which can function as a polymer nucleation site and, at relatively high Tc and for certain polymeric materials, secondary nucleation is energetically more favorable than homogeneous nucleation. Furthermore, if polymer crystallization kinetics is faster than that of the CNT agglomeration, CNTs will be wrapped by polymer single crystals. The polymer crystals then provide a steric hindrance thereby hindering or preventing CNT agglomeration.

From FIG. 1 it is immediately apparent that the polymer crystallizes at intervals on the CNTs and the formed NHSKs are therefore modified at discrete intervals along the CNTs. Achieving this type of surface modification of CNTs is extremely challenging due to the small size of the CNTs. Very few reported works have been dedicated to studying how the functional groups arrange on the CNT surface.[31] Recently, Kruse et al carefully investigated the structure of CNTs functionalized by a Bingel reaction.[31] The authors were able to identify long range, regular patterns of the functional groups on the individual CNT surfaces using an STM technique. Functionalization at intervals of about 4.6 nm was observed and the cause of the periodicity of the functionalization was attributed to a postulated induced reactivity.[31] The modification interval (“periodicity”) is significantly larger employing the present invention (about 70 nm vs. 4.6 nm) and the molecular origin of the modification observed in the NHSK might be related to the concentration gradient and the heat dissipation at the lamellar growth front.

In this type of polymer shish-kebab structure, it has been recognized that the kebab structures are epitaxially grown on the surface and that the polymer chains forming both the “shish” and the “kebab” structures are parallel to each other. As shown in FIG. 1 c, in the case of PE/CNT NHSK, the PE polymer chains are also parallel to the axis of the CNT, leading to the orthogonal orientation of the PE lamellae relative to the CNT axis. The growth mechanism of the PE on the CNT surface could be attributed to two possible reasons: first, epitaxial growth of PE on CNT, and secondly, due to their small diameter, CNTs themselves can be considered as macromolecules and polymer chains might prefer to align along the tube axis regardless of the lattice matching between the polymer chain and the graphitic sheet.

Nylon 6,6 was also used to modify CNT surfaces to tune the surface chemistry of the resulting NHSKs. FIG. 2 a shows an SEM image of Nylon 6,6/CNT NHSKs. The unbundled NHSKs are clearly seen and it can also be seen that each CNT has been periodically modified with Nylon 6,6 lamellar crystals throughout the entire CNT tube.

FIG. 2 b shows a TEM image of the Nylon 6,6/CNT NHSK and the inset of FIG. 2 b shows an enlarged segment of the tube. The CNT diameter is about 12 nm and the periodicity of the kebab structure is about 20-30 nm as opposed to about 50-70 nm in the PE/CNT NHSKs described above. From this, it appears that the periodicity also depends on the nature of the modifying polymer.

In order to demonstrate that the controlled polymer crystallization method also works for different types of CNTs, HiPco SWNT was also used for PE crystallization. FIG. 3 shows the TEM image of the PE/SWNT NHSKs. NHSK structures are again evident and of interest is that in some of the NHSK structures, bundles of SWNTs are wrapped, lather than wrapping of each individual tube. This may be the result of the SWNTs not being completely exfoliated, and/or that the SWNTs agglomerate before polymer nucleation occurs.

Fractions of the SWNTs forming with PE crystallized around the bundle captured the “state of the CNT agglomeration” in p-xylene solution. This image therefore can be considered as the direct visualization of the “degree of CNT exfoliation/agglomeration” in CNT/PE/p-xylene solution. Compared to unmodified CNTs, these modified NHSKs are easier to disperse in a polymer matrix.

The size of the kebab structures can be controlled by tuning the crystallization conditions. FIG. 4 a shows Nylon 6,6/MWNT NHSKs crystallized at 172° C. for 0.5 hrs. Due to larger supercooling and faster crystallization kinetics, much larger kebab structures (about 150 nm) have grown on the MWNT surface. The inset of the figure shows the enlarged tip of FIG. 4 a. A single MWNT can be clearly seen protruding out of the NHSK and the body of the CNT is buried inside the NHSK.

Addition of more Nylon 6,6 to a Nylon 6,6/CNT NHSK suspension and further crystallization at 185° C. leads to the formation of Nylon 6,6 spherulites as shown in FIG. 4 b. Nylon 6,6/CNT NHSKs are dispersed and located in the center of these hybrid spherulites, which can be considered as “ideal” CNT/polymer nanocomposites since the spherulite sizes dictate the tube-to-tube distance. FIG. 4 c shows the process of formation of Nylon 6,6 spherulites containing NHSKs.

Preliminary results demonstrate that both PE and Nylon 6,6 grow single crystals on MWNTs and CNT modification can be achieved. CNT concentration is related to NHSK formation since CNTs have to be exfoliated before crystallization of the polymer. Solubility of CNTs in organic solvent is low. For instance, one of the best solvents for SWNT is 1,2-dichlorobenzene, which is only able to dissolve 95 mg SWNT in 1 liter of solvent. Formation of PE crystals on individual MWNT suggests that the CNTs have been successfully exfoliated before crystallization. Increasing CNT concentration leads to more nucleation sites and possibly a higher yield of PE/CNT NHSKs. CNT concentration can be varied, for example, from (w/w) 0.001%-1% (Table 1).

As CNT concentration increases, nanotubes will not be exfoliated and phase separation will occur. As CNTs start to aggregate together with increasing concentration, two scenarios might occur: 1) CNTs might form uniform bundles with each bundle consisting of a few tubes and 2) phase separation occurs and the CNT/solvent dispersion might consist of large agglomeration of CNT as well as individual CNTs. In case one, controlled polymer crystallization will lead to NHSKs with CNT bundles forming the shish structure while in case two, CNT agglomeration and NHSK with single CNTs forming the shish structure will be formed.

Polymer concentration is another factor that influences the solution crystallization process. High polymer concentrations lead to dense nucleation/growth of polymer on the CNTs and spherulite structures might also be formed. The entire CNTs will thus be coated with spherulites, resulting in structures similar to those shown in FIG. 1 c. Therefore, in the case of polyethylene polymer, a relatively dilute concentration of polymer is needed to achieve the periodic patterning of the polymer single crystals on CNTs. The polymer concentration may be varied from, for example, about 0.01% to about 1%.

Crystallization temperature (Tc) may also influence the crystal structure and morphology. As Tc decreases, for solution crystallization, crystallization kinetics increases. Fast crystallization kinetics might lead to the crystal morphology change from single crystals to spherulites. Thickness of the lamellar crystals is known to depend on Tc.[49, 50] Therefore, NHSKs with different kebab thickness' can be obtained at different Tc. Furthermore, varing Tc may lead to different temperature gradients at the nucleation front and the periodicity (n) may also be altered.

A wide range of crystallization temperatures (Table 1) may be used in the process of the present invention. Generally, the crystallization temperature can be varied up to about plus or minus 10% from the actual Tc of the specific polymer employed.

Another parameter that may influence crystallization is the crystallization time. Upon quenching to Tc, there is a period of induction after which polymer crystal growth will start. After nucleation, lamellar crystal grows laterally and the size of the final kebab structure depends, at least in part, on the crystallization time. In order to achieve different kebab structure sizes, crystallization times from about 0.1 hr to about 10 hrs may be employed.

Table 1 lists some exemplary conditions for fabricating polymer/CNT NHSKs.

TABLE 1
Four palameters that will be controlled to tune NHSK structures
CNT PE
concen- concen-
tration tration Tc
Polymer Solvent (w/w %) (w/w %) (° C.) t (hr)
PE p-xylene 0.001-1 0.01-1  90-105  0.1-10
Nylon 6,6 glycerin 0.001-1 0.01-1 170-190 0.2-3
PEO Amyl acetate 0.001-1 0.01-1 30-40 0.2-3

In summary, for the first time, polymer single crystals have been successfully grown on the surface of CNTs. It is evident that CNTs can induce polymer secondary nucleation and the resulting NHSK structures possess a controllable periodicity of the polymer modification, e.g. the polymer single crystals forming kebab structures.

This makes it possible to modify CNTs in an ordered and controlled manner. Both SWNT as well as MWNT. have been successfully modified with PE and Nylon 6,6, implying that this is likely a generic method for CNT modification. As demonstrated herein, periodicities of 20-120 nm can be achieved.

The NHSK structures can also be used to fabricate polymer/CNT nanocomposites with a controllable tube-to-tube distance. In many cases, the size of the kebab structure dictates the tube-to-tube distance. Polymerization conditions can be controlled to provide the desired size of kebab structure by, for example, using a longer crystallization time and/or lower crystallization temperature. Also, addition of uncrystallized polymer may provide additional structure growth, such as spherulites, which can be mixed with the CNT's to adjust the CNT contents of the NHSKs.

Furthermore, by coupling crystalline polymers with functional groups, ordered multi-functionality can be realized on individual CNTs. For example, Au or CdSe quantum dots can be coupled with the CNTs in this manner.

In addition, polymeric materials can be employed that can be removed by application of heat or solvent to allow further manipulation of the NHSKs by heat or solvent treatment. Polypyrrole can be synthesized on PE/CNT NHSKs by in situ surfactant-directed chemical oxidative polymerization. In a typical synthesis, surfactant cetyl trimethylammonium bromide and NHSK are mixed in deionized water and sonicated for over two hours to obtain well-dispersed suspensions. The mixture is then cooled to 0-5° C. A pre-cooled pyrrole monomer and an ammonium persulfate/deionized water solution are added sequentially to the suspension. The reaction mixture is ultrasonicated for about 2 minutes and then allowed to stand for about 10-20 hours. After filtration, polypyrrole coated NHSK is obtained. At this stage, CNTs are modified with both polyethylene and polypyrrole. Polyethylene can then be removed by hot p-xylene, resulting in polypyrrole functionalized CNTs.

The modification method of the present invention can be applied to carbon fibers, carbon nanotubes, carbon nanowires and similar devices.

The modified CNTs of the present invention can be used, for example, to provide multi-functional nano-materials and enable the use of one-dimensional nanostructures in nano-electronics, photovoltaic cells and fuel cells, for example.

EXAMPLES Example 1

Purified HiPco SWNTs were purchased from Carbon Nanotechnolgies Inc. Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes (MWNTs) were purchased from Aldrich and washed with 2.4 M nitric acid for 0.5 hrs. The resulting MWNTs were then centrifuged, collected and dried in a vacuum oven.

Nylon 6,6 (Mn=10,000 g/mol) was supplied by Dupont Company. Linear polyethylene (MFI=12 g/10 min) and glycerin were purchased from Aldrich and used as received.

Nano hybrid shish-kebabs (“NHSKs”) were obtained via solution crystallization using CNTs as seeds. For PE crystallization (see scheme 1), p-xylene was used as the solvent. 0.1 mg MWCNT was dispersed in 1 g p-xylene and ultrasonicated for 1-2 hrs and then added to 4 g (w/w) of 0.01% PE/p-xylene solution. The mixture was then quenched to the preset Tc. The crystallization time was controlled to be 0.5 hrs. The crystallization temperature for MWNT was 103° C. and it was 104° C. for SWNT. The crystallization time was about 0.1-3 hrs. The sample was then isothermally filtered to remove the uncrystallized materials before microscopy observation.

For Nylon 6, 6, solution crystallization, glycerin was used as a solvent and the concentration was about (w/w) 0.01%. Nylon 6,6 was dissolved in glycerin at 240° C. 0.1 mg MWNT was dispersed in 1 g glycerin and ultrasonicated for 1-2 hrs at 40° C. and then added to a 9 g (w/w) 0.01% Nylon 6, 6/glycerin solution. The mixture was then quenched to the preset Tc. The crystallization time was controlled to be about 0.5-3 hrs. The sample was isothermally filtered after crystallization to remove the uncrystallized materials.

TEM experiments were conducted using a JEOL-2000FX microscope with an accelerating voltage of 120 kV. SEM experiments were carried out using a FEI/Phillips XL30 field emission environmental SEM and the acceleration voltage was 15 kV.

FIG. 1 shows a PE/MWNT NHSK structure produced by crystallization of PE on MWNTs at 103° C. in p-xylene for 0.5 hrs. FIG. 1 a is an SEM image that shows that MWNTs are modified by disc-shaped PE single crystals and PE modified MWNT can therefore be achieved. FIG. 1 b is a TEM image of enlarged PE/MWNT NHSK structures. FIGS. 1 a and 1 b show that periodicity of the kebab structures is about 50-70 nm. FIG. 1 c is a schematic representation of the PE/CNT NHSK structure. For clarity, SWNT was used. PE forms folded, lamellar single crystals on the CNT surface with polymer chains being perpendicular to the lamellae.

A straight, isolated MWNT can be clearly seen in FIG. 1. The tube is modified with disc-shaped objects which are uniform in size and periodically located along the CNTs. These disc-shaped objects are depictions of edge-on views of the polymer single crystal lamellae and the peculiar morphology is similar to classical polymer “shish kebab” structures formed in an elongation/shear flow field.[30] The CNT/polymer system in this case was not under external flow during crystallization and it is thus the MWNT that induces nucleation of polymer chains upon the MWNT surface.

FIG. 1 b shows a TEM micrograph of a similar structure without Pt shadowing and FIG. 1 c is the schematic representation of this nano-hybrid structure. It is evident that CNT forms the central stem and PE periodically grows on the CNT. FIG. 1 therefore resembles “nano hybrid shish-kebabs” (NHSKs). From FIG. 1 b, the “shish” (MWNT) possesses a diameter of 12.7 nm. Along the MWNT, the single crystal lamellae (the “kebabs”) are perpendicular to the MWNT axis. Intervals between the adjacent lamellae (“periodicity”) are about 50-70 nm and the width of the lamellar crystals is about 60-80 nm.

Example 2

FIG. 2 shows Nylon 6,6/MWNT NHSK structures produced by crystallization of Nylon 6,6 on MWNTs at 185° C. in p-xylene for 0.5 hr. FIG. 2 a is an SEM image that shows that MWNTs are modified by Nylon 6,6 single crystals. FIG. 2 b is a TEM image of Nylon 6,6/MWNT NHSK structures, the inset of FIG. 2 b shows an enlarged section. FIGS. 2 a and 2 b show that the periodicity of the kebab structures is about 20-30 nm and the lateral size of the modification is about 20 nm.

Example 3

FIG. 3 shows a TEM micrograph of a PE/SWNT NHSK produced by crystallization of PE on SWNTs at 104° C. in p-xylene for 0.5 hrs. Some of the NHSKs include a bundle of SWNTs (indicated by dotted arrows), instead of one single tube (indicated by solid arrows), to form the “shish” structure. These bundles can also serve as seeds for PE crystallization. This image thus can be considered as the direct visualization of the “degree of exfoliation/agglomeration” of SWNTs in p-xylene solution.

Example 4

FIG. 4 a shows a TEM micrograph of a NHSK obtained by crystallizing Nylon 6, 6/MWNT/glycerin solution at 172° C. for 0.5 hrs. FIG. 4 b shows an SEM micrograph of Nylon 6, 6 spherulites formed by using NHSK (shown in FIG. 2 a) as seeds to further crystallize pure Nylon 6,6 at 185° C. FIG. 4 c shows the formation process of CNT-containing Nylon 6,6 spherulites.

Example 5

To demonstrate the generality of this PCCF method, different kinds of CNTs were employed in Examples 5-7, as shown in Table 2.

TABLE 2
Source of CNTs
Category synthetic method ven outer diameter leng
SWNT HiPCO Carbon  0.8-1.3 nm     μm
Nanotechnology, Inc.
MWNT-10 (product arc discharge Sigma   5-15 nm  1-10 μm
#406074)
MWNT-25(product CVD Nanostructured &  20-30 nm   0.5-2 μm
#1240XH) Amorphous Materials,
CNF (PR-19-HHT) CVD Applied Science, Inc. 100-300 nm 30-100 μm

First, MWNTs synthesized by arc discharge and CVD methods were used. The diameters of these MWNTs were reported as 5-15 and 20-30 nm, respectively. They are thus denoted as MWNT-10 and MWNT-25. FIG. 5 a shows the TEM image of the resulting PE functionalized MWNT-10s after solution crystallization inp-xylene at 103° C. for 30 min, and the PE concentration was 0.01 wt %. It is evident that the disc-shaped PE single-crystal lamellae were periodically located along the tube axis and they are mostly perpendicular to the tube axis. A larger periodicity (the average periodicity is about 50-70 nm) is observed as compared to that in SWNTs, and the diameter of kebab is about 50-70 nm. NHSK with better dispersed MWNT-10 can also be achieved by using DCB as the solvent.

Example 6

FIG. 5 b shows PE functionalized MWNT-25s (p-xylene was the solvent and Tc of 97° C.). The tubes are slightly curvy and possess more defects as opposed to MWNTs synthesized by the arc discharge method and HiPCO SWNTs. However, NHSK structure is clearly seen from the figure. The outer diameter of MWNT-25 is about 30 nm. The disc-shaped PE single-crystal lamellae were located along the tube axis and not as uniform as those on MWNT-10s, which is probably due to the defects on the MWNT-25 surface and/or relatively lower Tc Less perfect sidewall structure is also believed to be the reason that the kebab periodicity was not as well formed as in MWNT-10.

Example 7

To further demonstrate the generality of this method, much larger size CNFs were used. CNFs are attractive from the practical point of view due to their relatively low cost. These CNFs have an outer diameter of 100-300 nm, a hollow core, and length on the order of 30-100 m. FIG. 5 c shows a TEM image of the PE NHSK with CNF shish. p-Xylene was used, and Tc was 97° C. It is clear that PE forms single-crystal lamellae on the central CNF. The PE lamellae in this case are large; the diameter is about 500 nm.

From FIGS. 5 a-5 c, it is evident that PE was successfully used to form NHSK structure with CNTs having diameters ranging from less than 1 to 300 nm. A unique feature of the NHSKs is that the degree of functionalization can be easily tuned by changing the experimental parameters. Much larger kebabs can be obtained by crystallizing PE/MWNT-10 mixture in p-xylene with relatively higher PE concentration at 103 C for 30 min as shown in the Supporting Information (FIG. S.2). Larger kebab surface ensures more functional groups as indicated in FIG. 2 b. Furthermore, as compared to pristine CNTs, by choosing polymers that are miscible with the kebabs, these NHSKs are easier to disperse in a polymer matrix, leading to controllable CNT nanocomposites.

TEM and SEM experiments were conducted to study the detailed lamellar orientation on the CNT/CNF surface. FIG. 5 a clearly shows that PE lamellae are perpendicular to the MWNT-10 axis, indicating the polymer chains are parallel to the CNT axis. On the other hand, FIG. 6 shows the SEM image of CNF/PE NHSKs. Interestingly, PE lamellae possess multiple orientations: the lamellar normals are parallel, perpendicular, or oblique to the CNF axis. This observation indicates that in CNF samples, because the fiber diameter is relatively large (100-300 nm), the curvature of CNF is not significant for PE macromolecules, and lattice epitaxy is therefore the major factor as CNF-induced crystallization occurs. It should be noted that in FIG. 5 c, most of the kebabs of the CNF/PE NHSK are nearly perpendicular to the CNF surface; this is probably because adopting this perpendicular orientation could facilitate the PE to grow into larger size crystals. In parallel and oblique orientation, space confinement from the adjacent lamellar crystals might eventually prevent them from growing into large size.

Comparative Example A and Examples 8-9 NHSK for CNT Dispersion and Separation

Because of the decorating polymer crystals, NHSK can be easily dispersed in solution. To increase the efficiency of functionalization, the initial concentration of SWNTs in the PE solution was increased. HiPco SWNT samples were used for this study. DCB is one of the best solvents for SWNTs (95 mg/L). We thus conducted the PE crystallization experiment in DCB. In this case, 1 mg SWNT was dissolved in 1 g of DCB by ultrasonication for about 3 hours to prepare the premix (note that the SWNT concentration is much higher than that inp-xylene). This premix was added into 4 g of PE/DCB solution at 120 C, and the final PE concentration is 0.01 wt %. After equilibration for 10 min, the solution was transferred to a preset Tc Three different Tc's (91, 89, and 87° C.) were used. All three samples have the same SWNT concentration.

In sample 1 (comparative example A), black precipitates were observed within 1 hour after crystallization, presumably due to agglomeration of CNTs. On the other hand, samples 2 and 3 (Examples 8-9, respectively) appeared to be stable, and did not precipitate 3 months after being prepared. This phenomenon suggested that 91° C. was too high for PE crystallization in DCB; NHSK was not formed in sample 1. In samples 2 and 3, the stable suspension of SWNT indicates that SWNTs were decorated by PE crystals and NHSK structures prevented SWNTs from precipitation. TEM experiment observations were conducted to confirm this hypothesis, and the results are shown in FIG. 7. It is evident that FIG. 7 a (sample 1) contains pristine SWNT bundles without any PE crystals attached while FIG. 7 b (sample 2) shows NHSK structure and all of the SWNTs were decorated with PE single-crystal lamellae. Similar to the result of PE NHSK formed in p-xylene, most of the SWNTs are in bundles. Note that the bundle formation is probably due to the high SWNT concentration we used.

Example 10

A lower concentration of SWNTs was used to achieve more complete exfoliation between SWNTs. FIG. 8 shows that PE NHSKs were obtained from 0.01 wt % SWNT in DCB. It is evident that, as compared to FIG. 7, SWNTs are much better separated and all of the SWNTs were decorated with PE crystals.

Example 11

DCB was also used for a MWNT NHSK study; FIG. 9 shows a TEM image of PE/MWNT-10 NHSK prepared in DCB. In FIG. 9, the kebab size and periodicity are much larger than that in FIG. 5 a, indicating that the NHSK structural parameters depend on the crystallization conditions. This provides a unique opportunity to control the periodicity and thus the degree of functionalization of CNTs.

Example 12

The formation temperatures of NHSK depend on the CNT structures. The suitable Tc values for SWNT, MWNT-10, MWNT-25, and CNFs in p-xylene are 104, 103, 97, and 97° C., respectively. Because CNTs that do not form NHSK easily precipitate while NHSK is stable in the solvent, PCCF thus also provides a unique opportunity to achieve CNT separation. To demonstrate this concept, MWNT-10 and MWNT-25 were mixed together in p-xylene, and the solution was further mixed with PE and crystallized at 103° C. It was anticipated that at this Tc, only MWNT-10 NHSK could be formed. It was observed that after 3 hours of crystallization, part of the CNT precipitated while the rest was stable in the solution. The supernatant and the precipitant were collected, and SEM was used to study their structure; the results are shown in FIG. 10. It is evident that the supernatants are NHSKs and the precipitants are naked CNTs. Of interest is that all of the NHSKs are formed with relatively straight CNTs while the naked CNTs are curvy. Because the MWNT-25 is curvy while MWNT-10 is straight due to the synthetic procedure, it can therefore be concluded that the supernatant NHSKs are formed by MWNT-10 while the precipitates are MWNT-25. This is because 103 C is the right condition for MWNT-10 to form NHSK and MWNT-25 does not induce PE crystallization at this temperature.

To further prove the separation result, Raman spectra were obtained from both the supernatant and precipitant as well as the pristine CNTs as shown in FIG. 10 c. Spectra 1 and 2 were taken from supernatant and pristine MWNT-10. They have almost the same pattern, indicating that the solution crystallization method does not affect the graphite structure of the MWNTs. A strong peak at 1578 cm−1 (G band), which represents the high-frequency E2g Raman scattering mode of sp2-hybridized carbon material, and a disordered structure-induced peak at 1352 cm−1 (D band), which may originate from the defects in the curved graphene sheets and tube ends, are seen. Raman spectra 3 and 4 are from the sediment collected in the MWNTs separation experiment and pristine MWNT-25. The spectra resembled those reported in the literature for CVD-grown CNT. The intensity of the D band is much stronger as compared to that of arc-discharged CNT in a and b. The degree of graphitization is an indicator of the carbon nanotubes' disorder level and is characterized by the intensity ratio of the D and G bands (R=ID/IG). The intensity ratios obtained from Raman spectra 1 and 3 in FIG. 10 c are 0.21 and 0.72, respectively. The values are comparable to those reported for arc-discharged CNT and CVD-grown CNT. Both SEM and Raman experiments thus confirmed that in the CNT separation experiment, supernatant and precipitant consist of MWNT-10 and MWNT-25, respectively, due to the selective crystallization condition that was chosen. Therefore, CNT separation was accomplished by PCCF.

It is to be understood, however, that even though numerous characteristics and advantages of the present invention have been set forth in the foregoing description, together with details of the structure and function of the invention, the disclosure is illustrative only, and changes may be made in detail, especially in matters of shape, size and arrangement of parts within the principles of the invention to the full extent indicated by the broad general meaning of the terms in which the appended claims are expressed.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7709298Jul 18, 2007May 4, 2010Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P.Selectively altering a predetermined portion or an external member in contact with the predetermined portion
Classifications
U.S. Classification423/460, 977/847
International ClassificationD01F9/12
Cooperative ClassificationD01F11/14
European ClassificationD01F11/14
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