Nanotube-grafted carbon fibres

Reference number 6702

Sectors: Chemicals

Industries: Advanced Polymers

A novel and patented production method introducing carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to carbon fibre (CF) composites to give enhanced electrical, mechanical and electrical properties.

Proposed use

This novel production method can be applied to an open-ended chemical vapour deposition (CVD) reactor in a continuous fashion and can be easily incorporated into continuous industrial production of carbon nanotube grafted carbon fibres (CNT-g-CF) without causing any damage or requiring a coating. The invention is simple and comparable with existing carbon fibre processing, thus requiring minimal retooling, equipment and capital investment.

Problem addressed

CF composites are state-of-the-art structural materials with excellent tensile properties, but there are critical limiting factors associated with the fibre-matrix interface, such as poor compression performance and poor interlaminar toughness.

CVD use to synthesise CNTs in-situ on primary fibres is simple, economic and has shown promising results. However, on CF the CVD process typically leads to damage of the underlying CF substrate through catalyst pitting, reducing the primary properties of interest. While protective coatings can mitigate this, they create an additional weak interface and limit anticipated benefits.

Technology overview

A modification of the CVD process can produce CNT-g-CF without causing damage or requiring a coating. Applying a potential difference to the catalyst loaded CF tow, such that the growth occurs in an electric field, encourages uniform CNT growth without degrading the primary mechanical properties. The approach can be easily incorporated into continuous industrial production. In addition, the process can be used to graft short (sub 0.3 μm), small diameter CNTs, such that the fibre volume fraction of primary fibres may be retained in the final consolidated composite.


  • CNT grafted CFs with superior material properties
  • CF tow left undamaged without need for barrier coatings or vacuum processes
  • Uniform aligned and densely packed CNT growth within and along the carbon fibre tow
  • Uniquely suitable for structural composite applications

Intellectual property information

Patents: EP3169825A1US20170198390A1


Fabian Lim

Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation Senior Executive, Faculty of Natural Sciences

Fabian is Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation Senior Executive for the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Imperial College London

Contact Fabian

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