An alternative improved method for the homogeneous dispersion of CNTs in Cu matrix for the fabrication of Cu/CNTs composites
Applied Nanoscience, 2013.
Copper has a wide range of applications due to its excellent properties (high thermal and electrical conductivity). Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are widely used as a reinforcing material due to their superior properties. Copper/Carbon nanotube (Cu/CNTs) composites show enhanced mechanical, electrical and thermal properties as compared to pure Cu and Cu composites. Hence, Cu/CNTs composites have tremendous applications. Cu/CNTs are being developed for use as antifungal and antimicrobial agents, which can lead to their further use in biomedical devices and implant materials. The versatility of this material is such that Cu/CNTs are being developed for use in ultra-large scale integrated circuits for use in the latest integrated circuits and semiconductor chips. The composite material is being used as heat sinks for various industries. Cu/CNTs are now also being employed as catalysts for various industrial reactions. Fuel cell electrodes based on Cu/CNTs are being developed to replace expensive Pt/Pd-based electrodes, currently being used. Another application in the energy sector is the use of Cu/CNTs in direct methanol fuel cells and in methanol gas reforming for H2 production. These extensive applications provided motivation for the current work. However, these applications can only be realized if a stable and uniform Cu/CNTs composite powder can be made. The challenges in fabricating Cu/CNTs composites are: (1) homogeneous dispersion of CNTs in Cu matrix, (2) interfacial bonding between CNTs and Cu matrix and (3) retention of structural integrity of CNTs. Powder metallurgy (PM) has been widely used, but dispersion of Cu/CNTs remains an issue. We employed the molecular level mixing method (MLM), coupled with high energy ball milling (BM) to overcome above mentioned issues. To the best of our knowledge, this is a new process for the homogeneous dispersion of CNTs in copper and has been reported for the first time. To produce a homogenous mixture of Cu and CNTs, a combination of MLM and BM was used in the present work. This method involves using a Cu salt/CNTs mixture in desirable weight ratio (CNTs being were taken in a high concentration), followed by chemical reduction in aqueous medium using NABH4 as reducing agent and EDTA as the oxidation control agent. The resultant mixture (Copper/Carbon nanotube) was mixed with pure Cu using BM. The composites were fabricated using PM, in which the composite powders were first cold pressed at 500每550 MPa followed by sintering at 550每900 ～C in a vacuum of 10 2 Torr. Characterization was carried out using SEM, XRD and HRTEM, and various mechanical properties were measured using a Universal testing Instron machine.
Copper/Carbon nanotube composites; Molecular level mixing; High energy ball milling