Carbon Nanotube Thin Films

The Electromechanical Properties of Carbon Nanotube-based Multifunctional Structural Coatings

  • Funding agency: National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Grant number: CMMI-SMM CAREER 1253564
  • Grant title: CAREER: Integrated Research and Education on the Electro-Mechanical Behavior of Multifunctional Structural Coatings
  • Collaborators: none
  • Graduate students: Bo Mi Lee


This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) project is an integrated research and education study centered on carbon nanotube (CNT)-based multifunctional coatings. Multifunctional coatings are material systems intentionally encoded with multiple engineering functionalities. The main research objective is to derive and validate the fundamental electromechanical behavior of multifunctional layer-by-layer CNT-polyelectrolyte (PE) thin films. Their coupled electrical and mechanical properties will be tested using experiments, characterized by theory, and simulated numerically across different length scales. First, CNT-PE thin films will be subjected to mechanical, fracture, and viscoelastic tests. A micro-electro-mechanical model will then be derived and validated for simulating thin film electromechanical response to different types of applied loads. Next, the model will be used to evaluate the effects of defects on bulk film linear/non-linear properties, as well as the effects of inhomogeneity of large coatings. Finally, a finite element model that incorporates spatial variations of electromechanical properties will be created for assessing and comparing to experiments their spatial sensing and mechanical behavior. This research will explain, from a physics standpoint, why these nanocomposites possess such unique linear/non-linear and static/time-dependent electromechanical behavior.

The research impacts will be the derivation of new theory, numerical models, and experimental data that describe, in a holistic sense and across different length scales, the electromechanical behavior of these CNT-based multifunctional thin films. The experimental methods, analysis techniques, and models developed are applicable to a broad array of nanocomposites and coatings. New knowledge and innovations in areas such as multi-physics modeling, mechanics, materials science, nano-engineering, sensor systems, and multifunctional coatings will be generated. The lessons learned will facilitate the implementation of future coatings in real-world applications. Integral to this CAREER project is also an education/outreach plan to equip future students/workforce with the knowledge, skills, and business training for them to pursue and secure careers in nanotechnology-enabled multifunctional materials. A nanoscience for sensing course series will be developed at UC Davis and the Los Rios Community Colleges. Students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged groups and female students will be recruited for this new effort and for research. Course and research results will be disseminated via a website, online videos, presentations, and publications.

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