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Interfacial heat flow in carbon nanotube suspensions


The enormous amount of basic research into carbon nanotubes has sparked interest in the potential applications of these novel materials. One promising use of carbon nanotubes is as fillers in a composite material to improve mechanical behaviour1,2, electrical transport3,4 and thermal transport5,6. For composite materials with high thermal conductivity, the thermal conductance across the nanotube–matrix interface is of particular interest. Here we use picosecond transient absorption to measure the interface thermal conductance (G) of carbon nanotubes suspended in surfactant micelles in water. Classical molecular dynamics simulations of heat transfer from a carbon nanotube to a model hydrocarbon liquid are in agreement with experiment. Our findings indicate that heat transport in a nanotube composite material will be limited by the exceptionally small interface thermal conductance (G ≈ 12 MW m−2 K−1) and that the thermal conductivity of the composite will be much lower than the value estimated from the intrinsic thermal conductivity of the nanotubes and their volume fraction.

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Figure 1: Transient changes in optical absorption.
Figure 2: Absorption by carbon nanotube suspensions.
Figure 3: Temperature difference between the nanotubes and surrounding liquid.
Figure 4: Spectral temperature of nanotube bending modes as a function of mode frequency.


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This work was supported by DOE Grant No. DEFG02-01ER45938 and NSF Grant No. CTS 99-78822. Sample characterization used the facilities of the Center for Microanalysis of Materials, which is partly supported by the US Dept of Energy under Grant No. DEFG02-91-ER45439. This work was also supported by the Petroleum Research Fund, Grant No. PRF36305-G9, NSF Grant No. DMR 134725, and a grant from Phillip Morris, USA.

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Correspondence to Pawel Keblinski.

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Huxtable, S., Cahill, D., Shenogin, S. et al. Interfacial heat flow in carbon nanotube suspensions. Nature Mater 2, 731–734 (2003).

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