CAREER: 3D Magnetic Structuring and Hierarchical Integration of Multi-functional Polymer Nanocomposites

Project: Research project

Project Details


Carbon nanotubes are lighter, stronger, and conduct more electricity/heat than other engineering materials for the same weight. Carbon nanotubes and composites utilizing them can improve the performance of aircraft/spacecraft, cars, and buildings. This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grant supports research which advances knowledge about manufacturing of these promising nano-engineered materials, promoting the progress of science and advancing the national prosperity. To achieve the highest performance, these carbon nanotubes must be incorporated and ordered within the polymer matrix based on its final macroscopic structure. A novel and scalable magnetic method is used to mix and order the nanotubes within materials. This controlled nanotube structuring is the key to fully harness their potential to potentially replace much heavier structural metals, resulting in energy-efficient, low-maintenance, and safer transport vehicles. This magnetic manufacturing technology could be applied to engineer materials for power and biomedical applications, such as battery electrodes, artificial muscles, etc., that are of national interest. Educational activities to promote diverse participation in STEM careers and to close the gap between engineering education and real-world demands are integrated into the research plans.

Integration of lightweight carbon nanotubes into aerospace or other structural -reinforced plastic composites are investigated for multifunctional property enhancement. Organized carbon nanotube networks are expected to improve interlaminar strength, to replace heavier metal shielding against electromagnetic interference protection, and to function as sensing/actuation layers. However, composite property improvement with carbon nanotubes is currently limited because (1) multi-scale structure-interphase-property relationships are not well understood, and (2) scalable and tailorable integration of nano-sized carbon nanotubes into macro-sized composites needs to be developed. This grant addresses these two challenges. First, tailorable 3D structuring of nanotubes in polymer matrices using low-frequency magnetic fields will be studied to enable control over carbon nanotube spacing and the interphase conditions. Second, the effects of carbon nanotube implementation, such as 3D structures and nanotube-polymer interphases, on multifunctional properties of fiber-reinforced plastic composites will be experimentally evaluated and modeled using analytical and Monte Carlo simulation approaches. The knowledge of magnetic assembly and of scaling effects, together with a scalable manufacturing technology, will accelerate design and fabrication of hierarchically structured nanofiller-implemented composites with advanced properties.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date2/1/191/31/24


  • National Science Foundation: $548,413.00


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