Carbon nanomaterials such as carbon black (CB), carbon nanotubes (CNTs), and graphene have demonstrated significant potential as fillers to improve the electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties of polymers and their fiber-reinforced polymer composites. The level of improvement has been found to depend significantly on the degree of alignment of carbon nanomaterials. Due to the very small scale and complex interactions of carbon nanomaterials with polymers and structural fibers, alignment in a given direction has been a major challenge. Over the past decade, considerable effort has been devoted to developing effective strategies to align carbon nanomaterials in polymer matrices. However, significant technological challenges remain, and there is still a lack of understanding of the alignment mechanisms and their effects on the properties of polymers and composites. This paper reviews in situ alignment techniques including shear deformation, mechanical stretching, electrospinning, and application of an external magnetic or electric field, and ex situ techniques including using vertically grown CNTs or graphene. This review particularly focuses on physical mechanisms underpinning the magnetic or electric field-induced alignment and theoretical analyses that describe the different motions occurring and the major parameters controlling alignment. Moreover, this review highlights the recent research findings of the effects of alignment on the properties of polymer nanocomposites. The outlook towards the challenges and opportunities in this field are also discussed in this review.
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- polymer nanocomposites
- carbon nanomaterials