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November, 2017

The Cambridge Spinning Process, invented here at the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, uniquely generates textiles composed of aligned, long-length single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), all in one production step.  Impurities, defective CNTs, and less-than-perfect microstructure alignment hamper the textile’s ultimate electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties.

Now, we have developed a laser-based post-process selectively removing defective CNTs and other carbons not forming a threshold thermal pathway. A laser beam rasters across the surface of a partly aligned CNT textile in air. Surviving material is strictly comprised of SWCNTs with a profound and unique improvement in microstructure alignment and crystallinity. Increasing the conductivity 20-fold, the CNT textile’s conductivity is well beyond single-crystal graphite and carbon fiber. 

Figure: A laser beam rasters across the surface of a suspended SWCNT textile. Impure carbons burn away leaving behind a thermal conduit of highly aligned and highly crystalline SWCNTs. Scanning electron microscopy show the “before” and “after” microstructure. 

J. S. Bulmer, T. S. Gspann, F. Orozco, M. Sparkes, H. Koerner, A. Di Bernardo, A. Niemiec, J. W. A. Robinson, K. K. Koziol, J. A. Elliott & W. O’Neill, "Photonic Sorting of Aligned, Crystalline Carbon Nanotube Textiles", Scientific Reports 7, 12977 (2017)