A Texas Southern University team of researchers consisting of Dr. Xin Wei, Dr. Yuanjian Deng, Dr. Renard L. Thomas, and Dr. Bobby Wilson recently received a patent entitled “Instantaneous Electro Deposition of Metal Nanostructures on Carbon Nanotubes.” The patent provides an effective approach to fabricate metalized carbon nanotubes, which may be easily scaled up for mass production and widely used in industry as multifunctional nanomaterials. As re-enforcers/fillers, the metalized carbon nanotubes can be dispersed much more uniformly in polymeric or metallic matrices, which can lead to significant improvements in mechanical properties in polymer composite materials or metal alloys. These advanced functional composite materials were initially developed as candidates for the next generation of aerospace vehicular systems. Additionally, the thermal and electrical conductivities of the polymer composite materials may also be enhanced. The metal coatings may also be easily converted to metal oxides, which make the metalized carbon nanotubes highly potential in photovoltaic devices. Certain metalized carbon nanotubes (such as gold and silver-functionalized carbon nanotubes) can be used in medical imaging, cancer treatment, and antimicrobial devices.
This technology may prove to be most valuable to the Department of Defense in particularly the Air Force Research Laboratory; chemical and oil industry, especially the polymer materials division; IT hardware and computer chips manufacturing, metallurgy, aerospace industry, national defense and security industry, energy industry (solar panels); pharmaceutical and drug industry (cancer imaging and treatment); and biomedical device industry (antimicrobial properties), environmental industry (water treatment, water purification.
Carbon nanotubes are well-known for their outstanding mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties. However, the biggest challenge in the field is the agglomeration of the carbon nanotubes, which adversely affects the performance of the final products. The patent presents a novel approach to modify the surface of the carbon nanotubes with metal nano-particles or metal coatings. The metalized carbon nanotubes can be much better dispersed in polymer or metal matrices, which greatly reduce the agglomeration without compromising the intrinsic properties of the carbon nanotubes. The patent paves the way from the laboratory-level nano research to practical applications in industry and then finally to the commercial products.
This patent has been licensed exclusively to NanoRidge Materials, Inc. of Houston, Texas. For sub-licensing, please make direct contact with NanoRidge Materials, Inc. Based on TSU’s proprietary technique, which is capable of depositing metal nanostructures (such as Cu, Ni, Ag, etc.) on the surface of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) electrochemically.
Currently, the TSU team is focused on functionalizing CNTs with a thin coating of conducting polymers in a similar manner. The conducting polymer coatings would be considered advantageous over the metal coatings as (i) the conducting polymers are usually much lighter than the transition metals; (ii) the thin conducting polymer coatings are able to provide sufficiently high electrical conductivity without much concern about the possible corrosion problem that would otherwise need to be addressed for the metal coatings in a long run; and (iii) compared to the metal coatings, the polymer coatings would be able to provide even better CNT dispersion, polymer/CNT interface, and polymer wetting when CNTs are incorporated into polymer matrices, such as the epoxy resin (Epikote 862 and Epikure W).