Densification of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Films: Mesoscopic Distinct Element Method Simulations and Experimental Validation

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Nanometer-thin single-walled carbon nanotube (CNT) films collected from the aerosol chemical deposition reactors have gathered attention for their promising applications. Densification of these pristine films provides an important way to manipulate mechanical, electronic, and optical properties. To elucidate the underlying microstructural level restructuring, which is ultimately responsible for the change in properties, we perform large scale vector-based mesoscopic distinct element method simulations in conjunction with electron microscopy and spectroscopic ellipsometry characterization of pristine and densified films by drop-cast volatile liquid processing. Matching with the microscopy observations, pristine CNT films with a finite thickness are modeled as self-assembled CNT networks comprising entangled dendritic bundles with branches extending down to individual CNTs. Simulations of these films under uniaxial compression uncover a soft deformation regime extending up to an ∼75% strain. When removing the loads, the pre-compressed samples evolve into homogeneously densified films with thickness values depending on both the pre-compression level and the sample microstructure. The significant reduction in thickness is attributed to the underlying structural changes occurring at the 100 nm scale, including the zipping of the thinnest dendritic branches.


Integrated Engineering

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Journal of Applied Physics