Automated dispersion and orientation analysis for carbon nanotube reinforced polymer composites

Gao Y, Li Z, Lin Z, Zhu L, Tannenbaum A, Bouix S, Wong CP

Nanotechnology 2012 Nov;23(43):435706

PMID: 23060008


The properties of carbon nanotube (CNT)/polymer composites are strongly dependent on the dispersion and orientation of CNTs in the host matrix. Quantification of the dispersion and orientation of CNTs by means of microstructure observation and image analysis has been demonstrated as a useful way to understand the structure-property relationship of CNT/polymer composites. However, due to the various morphologies and large amount of CNTs in one image, automatic and accurate identification of CNTs has become the bottleneck for dispersion/orientation analysis. To solve this problem, shape identification is performed for each pixel in the filler identification step, so that individual CNTs can be extracted from images automatically. The improved filler identification enables more accurate analysis of CNT dispersion and orientation. The dispersion index and orientation index obtained for both synthetic and real images from model compounds correspond well with the observations. Moreover, these indices help to explain the electrical properties of CNT/silicone composite, which is used as a model compound. This method can also be extended to other polymer composites with high-aspect-ratio fillers.