Researchers have developed thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness about 50 times higher than copper films, currently being used in electronics.“The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics, including biological and structural health monitoring sensors,” said Sameh Tawfick from the College of Engineering at University of Illinois.
Aligned carbon nanotube sheets are suitable for a wide range of application spanning from the micro to the macro-scales, Tawfick noted in the study published in the journal Advanced Engineering Materials.
“The study of the fracture energy of CNT textiles led us to design these extremely tough films. Tough nano-architectured conductive textile made by capillary plicing of Ccrbon nanotubes,” said lead author Yue Liang.
Beginning with catalyst deposited on a silicon oxide substrate, vertically aligned carbon nanotubes were synthesised via chemical vapour deposition in the form of parallel lines of 5 micrometre wide, 10 micrometre in length, and 20-60 micrometre in heights.
“Looking for ways to staple the CNTs together, we were inspired by the splicing process developed by ancient Egyptians 5,000 years ago to make linen textiles,” Liang added.
The new CNT textile, with simple flexible encapsulation in an elastomer matrix, can be used in smart textiles, smart skins and a variety of flexible electronics.
Owing to their extremely high toughness, they represent an attractive material, which can replace thin metal films to enhance device reliability.
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