Thin free-standing films of predetermined nanostructure

The way to make macroscopic objects out of graphene and carbon nanotubes.

Individual nanotubes vs macroscopic objects

Single nanotubes are very tiny and cannot be observed with a naked eye. In fact they are so small that if you wanted to see their structure, you would need to use a highly sophisticated microscope, which does not employ light, but electrons, because a conventional microscope just does not have enough magnification resolution. Individual carbon nanotubes have excellent electrical, thermal, mechanical and other properties, but to employ them in the real life, these tiny nanotubes must be assembled into a tangible object such as fibre, sheet or coating. Currently, the methods used to create such macroassemblies have little control over the shape of the final product. The reason is that what we synthesize is in fact a mixture of different types of nanotubes. They can be resolved into individual components, but to this day there has not been a process, which could turn them into a macroscopic object of a highly-defined structure in a scalable fashion.

Our process

We have just developed a method, which can produce thin nanocarbon films from any nanocarbon feed. These sheets can be made of any size and shape, they are flexible and durable. Most importantly, the method can employ any type of carbon nanotubes, so we can precisely design their macroscopic assembly for the particular application. The technique employs a binder which is used to create a scaffolding for the film formation, and then it can be removed leaving no residue, but the nanocarbon sheet. Our experiments have shown that the films have high electrical conductivity and appreciable mechanical properties. Because these are novel materials, we can expect that they will reveal interesting properties in the upcoming future as we continue our R&D.

Read more: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.matdes.2017.02.062