Due to their high strength and stiffness carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been considered as candidates for reinforcement of polymeric resins. It is also known that the addition of CNTs to polymeric matrix results in highly conductive nanocomposites, making the material multifunctional. Most of the CNT reinforced polymeric nanocomposite systems reported in the literature have been studied at room temperature. However, in many applications, materials may be subjected from low to elevated temperatures. Thus, the aim of this research is to study CNT reinforced polypropylene (PP) specimens at room, elevated and low temperatures. ASTM standard Type I specimens manufactured via injection molding and reinforced with 0.2%, 1%, 3%, and 6% CNTs were first subjected to tensile loads in a universal testing machine at room temperature. Neat PP resin specimens were also tested to provide baseline data. The tests were repeated at −54°C (−65°F), −20°C (−4°F), 49°C (120°F) and 71°C (160°F). The results were plotted as stress-strain curves and analyzed to delineate the effect of CNT reinforcement percentage and temperature on the mechanical properties. It was noted that as the percentage of CNT reinforcement increases, the resulting nanocomposite becomes stiffer (higher Young’s modulus), has higher strength and becomes more brittle. Temperature has a drastic effect on the behavior of the nanocomposite. As the temperature increases, at a given reinforcement percentage the material becomes more ductile with significantly lower Young’s modulus and strength compared to room temperature. At lower temperatures, the nanocomposite becomes more brittle with higher stiffness and strength, but significantly reduced failure strain. Also electrical measurements were conducted on the specimens to measure their resistance. For specimens reinforced with up to 3% of CNTs no electrical conductivity was detected. As expected at 6% CNT reinforcement (which is above the approximately 4% percolation limit reported in the literature), the specimens became electrically conductive. To predict the mechanical properties obtained experimentally, a micromechanics based model is presented and compared with the experimental results.

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