Carbon nanotube based liquid crystals

author: Philippe Poulin, Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal
published: Aug. 5, 2010,   recorded: July 2010,   views: 5285


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Carbon nanotubes are promising anisotropic particles for a variety of applications such as strong and lightweight composites, sensors, electronic devices, conductive inks, substrates for tissue engineering, etc. The dispersion behavior and spatial ordering of carbon nanotubes are critical to optimize the properties of nanotube based materials. Various approaches are currently explored to achieve diverse structures such as macroscopic alignment, percolated isotropic networks, solid or liquid crystalline states. We present in this talk the phase behavior of nanotube suspensions stabilized by surfactants or amphiphilic polymers. Those systems can form nematic liquid crystals. Nevertheless, achieving large values of the order parameter as well as large mono-domains remains challenging. We will discuss in particular the effect of processing conditions of nanotube based liquid crystals. Another approach for aligning carbon nanotubes consists in dispersing the particles in a liquid crystalline medium. Carbon nanotubes, because of their small dimensions, don’t create distortions of the liquid crystal host (“weak anchoring” regime). But they still align in response to the surface energy anisotropy. We will show some examples of such materials made of nanotubes embedded in liquid crystals. Routes for further improvements and future applications will be discussed.

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