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The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Malaysia

Research project: Functionalization of carbon nanotubes for energy applications

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Despite their excellent properties, CNTs have also found to be chemically stable but unfortunately tend to agglomerate due to the strong inter-tube van der Waals forces and their high surface energy as a result of the curvature of the thin nanotubes. This has hindered many useful applications especially in the biological and chemical areas due to the inherent solubility and difficult modifications of CNTs in most organic and aqueous solvents.

As a result, extensive research have now focussed upon modification, pretreatment or functionalization as a means to improve solubility of the CNTs and their ability to mix well in most organic substance. The functionalization of CNTs is an effective method to better disperse and stabilize CNTs within a polymer matrix. A few of the common approaches to fucntionalization are defect functionalization, covalent functionalization and noncovalent functionalization.

Noncovalent functionalization by functional polymers, surfactants and large organic molecules have shown to be a promising technique to improve solubility and compatibilty of CNTs in organic solvents. The advantage of this method is that the structure and original properties of the CNTs remain unchanged after modification. Noncovalent functionalization helps to improve the solubility and processibility of the polymer matrix with the addition of CNTs which is partly due to the presence of functional groups.



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