Year of Publication


Document Type





Manufacturing Systems Engineering

First Advisor

Eric A. Grulke


Carbon nanotubes have now been a subject of intense research for approaching two decades. Although a short time relative to most conventional materials, much hype about the intrinsic properties of this material has now been substantiated by experiment. The results are conclusive that carbon nanotubes are truly phenomenal materials with highly desirable mechanical, electrical and thermal properties. Furthermore, multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) have emerged as the most economically viable and abundant form of carbon nanotubes, and therefore the most likely candidate for application. The key materials engineering challenge remains in effectively transferring their properties to macro-scale materials in the form of composites. It is here that research merges with application. This dissertation has therefore been directed to focus on carbon nanotube composites in an applied sense. Here, the state of the art is reviewed, and experimental results of carefully selected composite systems, studied in detail for (1) mechanical, (2) electrical and (3) thermal properties, are presented and discussed. In terms of mechanical properties, the effects of MWNTs for augmentation of the tensile properties of PAN-based carbon fiber, and fatigue performance of poly(methyl methacrylate) are investigated and reported. In MWNT composite PAN-based carbon fiber, the formation of an ordered interphase layer sheathing the nanotubes was observed in fracture surfaces, which indicated a clear importance of their function to template the growth of carbon formation in the PAN-based matrix fiber. These structures open up a route to nano-scale tailorability of the crystallographic morphology of the composite fibers. Large improvements in fatigue performance were observed in MWNT/PMMA composites compared to MWNT/chopped carbon fiber composites, and attributed to the nanometer scale dimensions of the MWNTs enabling them to mitigate submicron damage such as polymer crazing. In terms of electrical and thermal properties, MWNT/epoxy composites were superior to MWNT/carbon black composites. Furthermore, extremely large improvements in the thermal conductivity of epoxy were observed for epoxy-infiltrated aligned MWNT arrays. The alignment of the MWNTs was shown to play a dominant role in enabling the improvement. Finally, these results, in concert with the literature are discussed in terms of the application of carbon nanotubes in engineering materials.