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Nanotube grafted carbon fibres for hierarchical composites

Project overview

The aim of the project is to produce a hierarchical composite structure containing carbon fibres which have been grafted with carbon nanotubes to act as a reinforcement in polymer (thermoplastic) or epoxy (thermoset) matrix. The addition of the carbon nanotubes to the surface of the carbon fibre using current methods damages the surface of the carbon fibre but improves other characteristics of the new material. The addition of the carbon nanotubes is desirable due to the unique properties inherent to their structure. Carbon nanotubes have extraordinarily high tensile strength, high thermal conductivity, can be electrically conducting and have a good aspect ratio. Carbon nanotubes which are deposited on the carbon fibre also increase the contact surface for interaction to the matrix. Carbon nanotubes grafted to carbon fibre are sometimes called hairy fibres due to their appearance. Aims of the project include:

  • Optimise grafting to minimise damage to the original fibre properties, the catalyst will be deposited electrochemically in a bath containing metal salts, prior to CVD growth. The diameters of the grafted CNT are dependent on the time left for deposition of the chosen catalyst on the carbon fibre.
  • To design, build, and commission a rig for continuous CNT grafting onto CF. Ideally integrate a resin impregnated step for composite line / pre-impregnated (prepreg) production. Ensuring that the composite is coated in a resin, it can be considered safe for handling. 
  • Use a number of mechanical tests and analytical techniques to identify the fundamental properties of the composite and the single fibres produced. 
  • Identify the failure mode (fractography) and relate to the defects of the composite, be it the interface between the components or the individual component limit being reached. Testing and following ASTM standards to assist production application.


David Anthony
PhD student

Prof. Alexander Bismarck
Prof. Milo Shaffer
Dr. Emile Greenhalgh



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