Spinning Carbon Nanotube-Gel Fibers Using Polyelectrolyte Complexation
Biopolymer-single walled carbon nanotube (SWNT)-biopolymer fibers were prepared using a continuous flow spinning approach. Polyelectrolyte complexation was facilitated by injecting a SWNT-biopolymer dispersion into a coagulation bath containing a biopolymer of opposite charge. We showed that the ability to spin fibers and their properties depend on processing conditions such as polyelectrolyte pH, sonolysis regime (conditions employed to disperse SWNT) and the order of adding the anionic and cationic biopolymer solutions. Maximizing the ionic nature through changes in the pH increased spin-ability, while combining a sonicated dispersion with an as-prepared (non-sonicated) polyelectrolyte solution allowed us to optimize sonolysis conditions while retaining spin-ability of fibers with smooth surface morphology. Addition of the cationic biopolymer-SWNT dispersion to the anionic biopolymer solution resulted in mechanical reinforcement with the increase in SWNT loading fraction. All fibers decreased their electrical resistance upon exposure to water vapor.