small plans: nanotechnology for the building industry

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Nanotube sandwich creates super-strong fabric

By stacking layers of ceramic cloth with interlocking nanotubes in between, a team of researchers has created new composites with significantly improved properties compared to traditional materials. The “nanotube sandwiches” could find use in a wide array of structural applications, according to a Rensselaer press release.

To make the new materials, the researchers at Rensselaer and the University of Hawaii at Manoa deposited a forest of carbon nanotubes across the surface of a cloth woven from fibers of silicon carbide — a ceramic compound made from silicon and carbon. The fabric layers were infiltrated with a high-temperature epoxy matrix, and then several layers of cloth were stacked on top of each other to form a three-dimensional composite “sandwich,” with interlocking nanotubes acting to fasten the layers together.

The researchers ran several experiments to test the new material’s properties, and they found that the interlocking nanotubes provided remarkable improvements in strength and toughness under various loading conditions.

Tests also showed that both the thermal and electrical conductivity of the new composites were significantly improved, which means that they could potentially be employed as sensors to monitor crack propagation in various structures. (photo University of Hawaii/Vinod Veedu)


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