Densification of single-walled carbon nanotube films: Mesoscopic distinct element method simulations and experimental validation

G Drozdov and I Ostanin and H Xu and YZ Wang and T Dumitrica and A Grebenko and AP Tsapenko and Y Gladush and G Ermolaev and VS Volkov and S Eibl and U Rude and AG Nasibulin, JOURNAL OF APPLIED PHYSICS, 128, 184701 (2020).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0025505

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 similar to 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 100nm scale, including the zipping of the thinnest dendritic branches.

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