Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Arvind Agarwal

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kinzy Jones

Third Advisor's Name

Wenzhi Li

Fourth Advisor's Name

Norman Munroe

Date of Defense



Aluminum oxide (A1203, or alumina) is a conventional ceramic known for applications such as wear resistant coatings, thermal liners, heaters, crucibles, dielectric systems, etc. However applications of A1203 are limited owing to its inherent brittleness. Due to its excellent mechanical properties and bending strength, carbon nanotubes (CNT) is an ideal reinforcement for A1203 matrix to improve its fracture toughness.

The role of CNT dispersion in the fracture toughening of the plasma sprayed A1203-CNT nanocomposite coating is discussed in the current work. Pretreatment of powder feedstock is required for dispersing CNTs in the matrix. Four coatings namely spray dried A1203 (A-SD), A1203 blended with 4wt.% CNT (A4C-B), composite spray dried A1203-4wt.% CNT (A4C-SD) and composite spray dried A1203-8wt.% CNT (A8CSD), are synthesized by plasma spraying. Owing to extreme temperatures and velocities involved in the plasma spraying of ceramics, retention of CNTs in the resulting coatings necessitates optimizing plasma processing parameters using an inflight particle diagnostic sensor. A bimodal microstructure was obtained in the matrix that consists of fully melted and resolidified structure and solid state sintered structure. CNTs are retained both in the fully melted region and solid-state sintered regions of processed coatings.

Fracture toughness of A-SD, A4C-B, A4C-SD and A8C-SD coatings was 3.22, 3.86, 4.60 and 5.04 MPa m1/2 respectively. This affirms the improvement of fracture toughness from 20 % (in A4C-B coating) to 43% (in A4C-SD coating) when compared to the A-SD coating because of the CNT dispersion. Fracture toughness improvement from 43 % (in A4C-SD) to 57% (in A8C-SD) coating is evinced because of the CNT content. Reinforcement by CNTs is described by its bridging, anchoring, hook formation, impact alignment, fusion with splat, and mesh formation.

The A1203/CNT interface is critical in assisting the stress transfer and utilizing excellent mechanical properties of CNTs. Mathematical and computational modeling using ab-initio principle is applied to understand the wetting behavior at the A1203/CNTinterface. Contrasting storage modulus was obtained by nanoindentation (~ 210, 250, 250-350 and 325-420 GPa in A-SD, A4C-B, A4C-SD, and A8C-SD coatings respectively) depicting the toughening associated with CNT content and dispersion.



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