Document Type



Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Arvind Agarwal

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

W. Kinzy Jones

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Norman D. H. Munroe

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Wenzhi Li

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Carbon Nanotubes, Metal Matrix Composites, Distribution, Interface, Carbides, Multi-scale Properties, Nanoindentation, Nanoscratch

Date of Defense



Carbon nanotubes (CNT) could serve as potential reinforcement for metal matrix composites for improved mechanical properties. However dispersion of carbon nanotubes (CNT) in the matrix has been a longstanding problem, since they tend to form clusters to minimize their surface area. The aim of this study was to use plasma and cold spraying techniques to synthesize CNT reinforced aluminum composite with improved dispersion and to quantify the degree of CNT dispersion as it influences the mechanical properties. Novel method of spray drying was used to disperse CNTs in Al-12 wt.% Si pre-alloyed powder, which was used as feedstock for plasma and cold spraying. A new method for quantification of CNT distribution was developed. Two parameters for CNT dispersion quantification, namely Dispersion parameter (DP) and Clustering Parameter (CP) have been proposed based on the image analysis and distance between the centers of CNTs. Nanomechanical properties were correlated with the dispersion of CNTs in the microstructure. Coating microstructure evolution has been discussed in terms of splat formation, deformation and damage of CNTs and CNT/matrix interface. Effect of Si and CNT content on the reaction at CNT/matrix interface was thermodynamically and kinetically studied. A pseudo phase diagram was computed which predicts the interfacial carbide for reaction between CNT and Al-Si alloy at processing temperature. Kinetic aspects showed that Al4C3 forms with Al-12 wt.% Si alloy while SiC forms with Al-23wt.% Si alloy. Mechanical properties at nano, micro and macro-scale were evaluated using nanoindentation and nanoscratch, microindentation and bulk tensile testing respectively. Nano and micro-scale mechanical properties (elastic modulus, hardness and yield strength) displayed improvement whereas macro-scale mechanical properties were poor. The inversion of the mechanical properties at different scale length was attributed to the porosity, CNT clustering, CNT-splat adhesion and Al4C3 formation at the CNT/matrix interface. The Dispersion parameter (DP) was more sensitive than Clustering parameter (CP) in measuring degree of CNT distribution in the matrix.



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