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Micro-Centrifugal Technique for Improved Assessment and Optimization of Nanomaterial Dispersions: The Case for Carbon Nanotubes

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journal contribution
posted on 12.10.2018, 00:00 by Simon G. King, Evandro Castaldelli, Liam McCaffterty, S. Ravi P. Silva, Vlad Stolojan
Large-scale incorporation of nanomaterials into manufactured materials can only take place if they are suitably dispersed and mobile within the constituent components, typically within a solution/ink formulation so that the additive process can commence. Natural hydrophobicity of many nanomaterials must be overcome for their successful incorporation into any solution-based manufacturing process. To date, this has been typically achieved using polymers or surfactants, rather than chemical functionalization, to preserve the remarkable properties of the nanomaterials. Quantifying surfactant or dispersion technique efficacy has been challenging. Here we introduce a new methodology to quantify dispersions applicable to high-weight fraction suspensions of most nanomaterials. It is based on centrifuging and weighing residue of undispersed material. This enables the determination of the efficacy of surfactants to disperse nanomaterials (e.g., ultrasonication power and duration) and leads to increased nanomaterial solution loading. To demonstrate this technique, we assessed carbon nanotube dispersions using popular surfactants: Benzalkonium chloride (ADBAC), Brij52, Brij58, PluronicF127, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate (SDBS), Triton X-100, TritonX-405, and Tween80, evaluating the dispersion outcome when varying sonicator power and horn depth as well as imaging sono-intensity within the solution with luminol. The methodology is shown to be applicable for high-weight fraction nanomaterial suspensions, enabling greater deployment.