Developing polymer composite nanomaterials with graphene and carbon nanotubes

(Nanowerk News) Carbon nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes (CNT) and graphene have been widely incorporated into polymers to develop functional materials.
The conventional mixing methods can produce composite materials at high efficiency and with low cost, but the excellent properties of individual CNTs or graphene sheets/ribbons have not been fully used at macroscopic scale.
A recent review article in Advanced Materials ("Developing Polymer Composite Materials: Carbon Nanotubes or Graphene?")mainly describes the preparation, structure, property and application of the two families of composite materials with an emphasis on the difference between them.
Some general and effective strategies are summarized for the development of polymer composite materials based on carbon nanotube and graphene.
A lot of researches have focused on the applications of composite materials in energy field including solar cells, supercapacitors and lithium ion batteries. However, the mechanisms for the rapid charge separation and transport are mainly based on hypotheses.
As the composite structure cannot be accurately controlled and tuned, it remains very difficult to make systematic studies to deeply explore the underlying rules and clearly clarify the process. Although the aligned CNT/polymer composite had been investigate to provide some useful clues, it is still far away from a confident understanding to the mechanism. This has severely limited the further improvement on the performances of above energy devices.
Although either CNT/polymer or graphene/polymer composite materials have been widely investigated, the simultaneous incorporation of CNT and graphene into polymers is rare, through a combination of CNT and graphene may significantly enhance the physical properties of polymer composites. Some attempts are once made to produce hybrid structures including graphene and CNT on the basis of aerogels.
The article concludes that a lot of efforts should be paid to develop these combined composite materials with remarkable properties, and some high performance applications may be achieved in the near future.
Source: Wiley
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