INASCO efforts in the nanotechnology sectors focuses on the development of Intelligent Multi-functional Composite Aerostructures based on Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Functional Fabrics with embedded CNT-based engineered Actuators and Sensors.
There is a growing demand for textiles and engineered fiber structures with fully integrated functions. CNTs are a key enabling technology for this convergence, combining high specific strength and stiffness, electrical and thermal conductivity, and compatibility with electronics and sensing applications, either in pure form or as composites with selected polymers. Unlike other smart materials, the CNT based material is simultaneously a structural material because it is load bearing, a functional material because of its electro-mechanical properties that can be tailored, and a smart material due to actuation and sensing (functionalization of CNT assemblies i.e. electrically conductive switchable properties).
In order to realize the exciting potential of CNTs, there is a need for processing methodologies and robust manufacturing technology to convert the CNTs to macroscopic structures and subsequent use of such structures as reinforcement to form the next-generation of structural composites. INASCO is currently working on techniques and processes to design and produce carbon nanotube (CNT) multifunctional (sensing and actuation at a later stage) fabrics for reinforcing polymer composite materials, starting from nanotube functionalization all the way to component fabrication.


 Schematic of a possible configuration for a spinning device line (click to enlarge)
The scale up of production of high quality CNT based functional fabrics: Functionality is determined by physicochemical alteration of the CNTs structure. Functional molecular groups are “attached” to the CNTs by means of oxidation or grafting. Applications of the functional fabrics include actuators, catalysts supports, strain sensors and supercapacitor electrodes.
Schematic process diagram of the dispersed CNTs deposition on a moving substrate for semi-continuous production of CNT functional fabrics