Researchers from the Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech); Rice University
and Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc., both based in Houston; and the US Air Force presented findings
from their research on incorporating carbon nanotubes into fibers and films at the national meeting
of the Washington-based American Chemical Society, held recently in Anaheim, Calif.
According to Satish Kumar, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Polymer, Textile and Fiber
Engineering, carbon nanotubes can provide thermal and electrical conductivity to textile fibers
while allowing them to maintain the touch and feel of typical textiles. Moreover, the addition of
carbon nanotubes to traditional fibers can double the fibers stiffness, reduce shrinkage by 50
percent, raise the temperature at which the material softens by 40°C, and improve solvent
Kumar’s research team, in collaboration with Richard Smalley, a Rice professor and Nobel
Prize-winning scientist, has developed a technique to produce composite fibers containing up to
10-percent carbon nanotubes. Produced by Rice University and Carbon Nanotechnologies, single-walled
nanotubes exist in bundles 30 nanometers in diameter and containing more than 100 tubes. To produce
composite fibers, the bundles first are dispersed in an organic solvent, acid or water containing
surfactants. Polymer materials then are dissolved with the dispersed nanotubes, and fibers are
produced using standard textile manufacturing methods and equipment.
To advance nanotube composite research further, Kumar hopes to form a Carbon Nanotube-Enabled
Materials Consortium at Georgia Tech to conduct basic and applied research.