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Marie Curie Initial Training Network for the tailored supply-chain development of the mechanical and electrical properties of CNT-filled composites

Final Report Summary - CONTACT (Marie Curie Initial Training Network for the tailored supply-chain development of the mechanical and electrical properties of CNT-filled composites)

The EU is currently directing intensive research efforts into nanotechnology. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs), with the electrical conductivity of copper and an E-modulus 10 times greater than steel, are one of the most promising developments, enabling the creation of materials with revolutionary characteristics. The commercial potential is huge, but only a fraction of the possible applications have reached the market. Collaboration is needed between academia and industry, so that processes developed on a laboratory scale can be upscaled for industrial application. The predicted growth of nanotechnology can only be sustained through the education of scientists.

The Marie Curie Initial Training Network CONTACT aims to overcome recognized limitations in the state of the art, including the production methods of CNTs, the adjustment of CNT surface properties and the production of CNT dispersions in thermosets and thermoplastics, and to provide reliable analysis and characterization methods as well as reliable analytical and computational models for the prediction of the composites properties. Work is focused on three specific end-user applications to ensure quantifiable and tangible results.

The Marie Curie fellows recruited by the CONTACT network all receive intensive scientific and technical training within and beyond their specific subject area, through their own research and collaborations, through formal courses at their host institution and also through training events organized by the network.

Most of the envisaged scientific results within CONTACT could be successfully achieved. The synthesis of CNTs was significantly improved with respect to the yield. The process could be upscaled and the inline reaction monitoring allowed deep insight into the chemistry of the growth. Different dopants were applied and their influence on the CNTs structure could be observed. The influence of newly developed carbon based catalysts on the structure of the produced CNTs as well as the yield could be derived and optimized. An improved dispersability of the produced CNTs was achieved by the use of appropriate solvents, the use of surfactants and by the application of chemical surface treatments to pristine CNTs. Flexible films with improved transparency and electrical conductivity from highly dispersed CNTs could be realized. Furthermore films were developed in view of their dielectric properties for capacitor applications. FRPs from CNT reinforced epoxies were produced and analyzed with respect to stress relaxation and their dynamic mechanical behavior in view of construction applications. Improved dispersion techniques for CNTs in thermoplastic composites were developed based on twin screw compounding, resulting in higher electrical conductivities. Pure CNT composites as well as multi-filler systems were investigated. The understanding of the influence of processing parameters of the thermoplastic CNT composites by injection moulding was improved leading to better electrical conductivities of the produced parts. Computational as well as phenomenological modeling approaches were developed, facilitating the interpretation of the properties of the produced composites. The developed characterization techniques, the determination of the dielectric properties of CNT-epoxy suspensions and conductive AFM, could be used for the interpretation of the experimental results in view of the correlation of processing parameters with the electrical conductivities of the produced parts.

Network wide training was provided to the fellows in several events in view of technical and complementary skills, including training for job interviews.