The paper discusses the development of polymer composite materials based on carbon nanotubes. Carbon Nanotubes can be used to form polymer hybrid materials that have good elastic properties, piezoresistive sensing, and electrochemical actuation. Of particular interest are smart nanocomposite materials that are strong and self-sensing for structural health monitoring, or self-actuating to improve the performance and efficiency of structures and devices.
Since nanoscale research is broad, challenging, and interdepartmental, undergraduate through Ph.D. level students and
faculty have combined efforts to attack the special problems related to building nanoscale smart materials. This paper gives an overview of the work being performed to manufacture polymer nanocomposite materials starting from nanotube synthesis through to device fabrication and testing. Synthesis is performed using an EasyTube Nanofurnace, functionalization is done using plasma coating, dispersion using rotary mixing and ultrasonication, and processing
using vacuum and pressure casting. Reinforced polymers, a carbon nanotube solid polymer electrolyte actuator, and piezoresistive sensors are being developed for several potential applications. The materials produced indicate that carbon nanotube hybrid smart materials may become a new class of smart material with unique properties and applications, but much work still needs to be done to realize their full potential.