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Strong Carbon Nanotube Fibers by Drawing Inspiration from Polymer Fiber Spinning

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posted on 28.07.2015, 00:00 by Belén Alemán, Víctor Reguero, Bartolomé Mas, Juan J. Vilatela
We present a method to spin highly oriented continuous fibers of adjustable carbon nanotube (CNT) type, with mechanical properties in the high-performance range. By lowering the concentration of nanotubes in the gas phase, through either reduction of the precursor feed rate or increase in carrier gas flow rate, the density of entanglements is reduced and the CNT aerogel can thus be drawn (up to 18 draw ratio) and wound at fast rates (>50 m/min). This is achieved without affecting the synthesis process, as demonstrated by Raman spectroscopy, and implies that the parameters controlling composition in terms of CNT diameter and number of layers are decoupled from those fixing CNT orientation. Applying polymer fiber wet-spinning principles then, strong CNT fibers (1 GPa/SG) are produced under dilute conditions and high draw ratios, corresponding to highly aligned fibers (from wide- and small-angle X-ray scattering). This is demonstrated for fibers either made up of predominantly single-wall CNTs (SWCNTs) or predominantly multiwall CNTs (MWCNTs), which surprisingly have very similar tensile properties. Finally, we show that postspin densification has no substantial effect on either alignment or properties (mechanical and electrical). These results demonstrate a route to control CNT assembly and reinforce their potential as a high-performance fiber.