Influence of the microstructure on effective mechanical properties of carbon nanotube composites


Despite the exceptional mechanical properties of individual carbon nanotubes (CNTs), the effective properties of CNT-reinforced composites remain below expectations. The composite’s microstructure has been identified as a key factor in explaining this discrepancy. In this contribution, a method for generating representative volume elements of aligned CNT sheets is presented. The model captures material characteristics such as random waviness and entanglement of individual nanotubes. Thus it allows studying microstructural effects on the composite’s effective properties. Simulations investigating the strengthening effect of the application of a pre-stretch on the CNTs are carried out and found to be in very good agreement with experimental values. They highlight the importance of the nanotube’s waviness and entanglement for the mechanical behavior of the composite. The presented representative volume elements are the first to accurately capture the waviness and entanglement of CNT sheets for realistically high volume fractions.
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