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Repelling water with buckypaper

NSF Award:

Carbon Nanotube Induced Polymer Crystallization, Structure and Morphology  (Drexel University)

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Buckypaper is the common name for a mat of extremely strong nanotubes. These tiny pipes are about 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Buckypaper has extraordinary mechanical and thermal properties, conducting electricity better than most other materials.

To improve this useful material, Drexel University researchers discovered a way to make buckypaper repel water droplets. After the paper formed, Christopher Li and his colleagues grew tiny, flat crystals of polymers around each nanotube. The end product resembles shish-kebabs, with the nanotubes corresponding to the shish or skewers and the polymer crystals resembling the kebabs. Water repellency occurs when the nanotubes comprise 25 percent of the buckypaper.

Li's process enables researchers to control the width of the polymer crystals and the distance between nanotubes since wider kebabs push the nanotubes farther apart and open up the pores. Wider pores permit the introduction of other substances to buckypaper. Such precision control could help the enhanced material find applications in sensor or electronics development. 

The findings were published in the journal ACS Nano and Carbon

Images (1 of )

  • nanotubes skewer thin polymer crystals of three different sizes
  • a carbon nanotube necklace decorated with thin polymer crystals
Nanotubes skewer three sizes of polymer crystals. The scale is about 1/1000 the width of a human hair.
Christopher Li, Drexel University
A necklace formed by bending a carbon nanotube into a circle and decorating with polymer crystals. The scale is 1/50 the width of a human hair.
Christopher Li, Drexel University

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