Interfacial energy between carbon nanotubes and polymers measured from nanoscale peel tests in the atomic force microscope

Mark C. Strus, Birck Nanotechnology Center and School of Mechanical Engineering
Camilo I. Cano, School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University
R. Byron Pipes, School of Chemical Engineering, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, School of Materials Engineering, Purdue University
Cattien V. Nguyen, ELORET Corp, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, USA
Arvind Raman, Birck Nanotechnology Center and School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University

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The future development of polymer composite materials with nanotubes or nanoscale fibers requires the ability to understand and improve the interfacial bonding at the nanotube–polymer matrix interface. In recent work [Strus MC, Zalamea L, Raman A, Pipes RB, Nguyen CV, Stach EA. Peeling force spectroscopy: exposing the adhesive nanomechanics of one-dimensional nanostructures. Nano Lett 2008;8(2):544–50], it has been shown that a new mode in the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), peeling force spectroscopy, can be used to understand the adhesive mechanics of carbon nanotubes peeled from a surface. In the present work, we demonstrate how AFM peeling force spectroscopy can be used to distinguish between elastic and interfacial components during a nanoscale peel test, thus enabling the direct measurement of interfacial energy between an individual nanotube or nanofiber and a given material surface. The proposed method provides a convenient experimental framework to quickly screen different combinations of polymers and functionalized nanotubes for optimal interfacial strength.