Date of Award

Spring 5-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Chair

Sarah E. Morgan

Committee Chair Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Member 2

Robert Y. Lochhead

Committee Member 2 Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Member 3

Derek L. Patton

Committee Member 3 Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Member 4

James W. Rawlins

Committee Member 4 Department

Polymers and High Performance Materials

Committee Member 5

Paige Buchanan

Committee Member 5 Department

Chemistry and Biochemistry


Carbon nanotube (CNT) polymer nanocomposites are promising advanced materials. These materials exhibit the advantages of traditional polymeric materials, such as being light weight and easy to process, combined with the potential to exhibit enhanced mechanical, thermal and electrical properties compared to pure polymers. To achieve substantial improvement of composite properties at low CNT loading, uniform dispersion of CNTs in the polymer matrix and strong CNT-polymer interfacial interaction are needed. However, it is difficult to achieve adequate dispersion and interfacial interactions due to the inert nature of CNTs. In this project, polyhedral oligomeric silsequioxane (POSS) will be used as a dispersing agent for multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) in polyurethane (PU) matrices.

This dissertation consists of six chapters. Chapter I provides a detailed introduction of the fundamental knowledge of CNTs, PU, and POSS. At the end of this chapter, the motivation and rationale of this research are given. Chapter II establishes the overall goal and specific objectives of this research. Chapter III describes the synthesis and characterization of three POSS modified CNTs and one organosilane modified CNT. Grafting efficiency of the different grafted molecules are calculated and compared. Chapter IV discusses the dispersion behavior of four covalently modified CNTs in both solvents and PU matrices. Differences in dispersion behaviors of the modified CNTs are correlated to the solubility parameters of the grafting molecules and the surface structures of modified CNTs. Chapter V provides further discussion of the dispersion of POSS and silane modified CNTs by reviewing the assessment of the physical properties of PU composites containing the modified CNTs. Morphological, thermal, mechanical and electrical properties are used to estimate the interactions of the modified CNTs with the PU matrix. Chapter VI explores the function of the trisilanolphenyl POSS lithium salt (TSPLi) as a dispersant for CNTs in thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) during melt extrusion. The dispersion of CNTs and TSPLi modified CNTs are estimated by mechanical and electrical property measurement of the PU/CNT and PU/CNT-POSS composites.