High-Strength Ultra-Light Carbon Nanotubes Aerogels

Penn Physicists Develop a Carbon Nanotube Aeroegel Optimizing Strength, Shape and Conductivity. ‘Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have created low-density aerogels made from carbon nanotubes, CNTs, that are capable of supporting 8,000 times their own weight. The new material also combines the strength and ultra-light, heat-insulating properties of aerogels with the electrical conductivity of nanotubes.
Aerogels are unique, low-density materials created by replacing the liquid component of a gel with gas and are normally constructed from silicon dioxide or other organic polymers. They are currently used as ultra-light structural materials, radiation detectors and thermal insulators. Aerogels made from CNTs offer advantages to current aeroegels that point towards future applications in chemical or biological sensors.
A collaboration led by Arjun G. Yodh and Jay Kikkawa of the department of Physics and Astronomy at Penn created the aerogels by freeze-drying or critical-point-drying CNT networks suspended in fluid. The process produces a carbon nanotube network whose carbon concentration, electrical conductivity and strength can be manipulated. Critical-point-drying demonstrated reproducible conductivity in the aerogels.’

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