The introduction of carbon nanoforms, especially carbon nanotubes (CNT), into structural composites has been limited due to challenging processing requirements. Difficulties in post-processing can be avoided by anchoring the nanoreinforcement to a parent fibre, which can be handled in convention composite procedures. CNTs can be synthesised onto reinforcing carbon fibre (CF) surfaces to improve composite structural performance, through improved interfacial bonding of the matrix and reinforcement. Sourcing a suitable amount of carbon nanotube grafted carbon fibre (CNT-g-CF) for mechanical test coupons geometry has been restricted due to sensitive batch CNT synthesis, which in turn has limited development. Scaling the CNT synthesis procedure for continuous production of CNT-g-CF, without damaging the parent reinforcement structure whist using low intensity processing techniques (minimal processing of parent fibre substrate), compatible with industrial practices is critical for progression in the field.
Structural Power Composites
Bi-phasic reinforcement of composites using a carbon aerogel monolith (CAG) to further develop multifunctional composites, with comparable mechanical performance to traditional carbon fibre reinforced composites, as a structural power material have shown promising results. The development of such a structural power component, which stores electricity but acts as an integral mechanical structure, for example the shell of a car stores energy which removes the requirement to have a separate battery, reduces weight without reducing function. Structural power composites are expected to impact everyday life as we seek to generate, store and consume energy differently.
I worked on the High Performance Ductile Composites (HiPerDuCT) Project at Imperial College London from 2013-2018 in collaboration with University of Bristol, developing materials which display ductile or pseudo-ductile response to mechanical load and have high strength and stiffness (EPSRC EP/I02946X/1).
My doctoral thesis was completed at Imperial College London, supervised by Professor Milo SP Shaffer, Professor Emile S Greenhalgh and Professor Alexander Bismarck and I was supported in my studies by the EPSRC via a Doctoral Training Account (DTA) Award (EP/P502500/1), between 2008-2013. My work focused on the scalability of carbon nanotube-grafted-carbon fibres, and I was successful in applying for an EPSRC Impact Acceleration: Pathways to Impact Award (EP/K503733/1) and was aided by the Weizmann UK Programme Grant, The Weizmann Institute of Science, for Hierarchical composites based on carbon nanotube fibres (2012-2015).
The scalable synthesis of carbon nanotubes on fibres investigated during my PhD resulted in a patent (US201515326156) with the application made by Imperial Innovations Ltd and two journal publications. The first manuscript "Applying a potential difference to minimise damage to carbon fibres during carbon nanotube grafting by chemical vapour deposition" was chosen by Nanotechnology as a Highlight of 2017. The second manuscript "Continuous carbon nanotube synthesis on charged carbon fibers" is published in Composte Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing.