Changing the way we live
The work of Deakin researcher Dr Minoo Naebe continues to attract global attention.
As reported by "the global window on higher education", the London-based World University News, Dr Naebe and her colleagues have found a way to strengthen plastic nanofibres, using carbon nanotubes to make them up to 400% stronger.
The World University News also reports that these findings may soon have real world commercial applications, opening up polymer nanofibres to new uses.
"Although polymer nanofibres have a certain strength, they have not been strong enough for some potential applications. Our research looked at how carbon nanotubes-tiny graphite tubes which are one of the strongest materials ever discovered-could be used to strengthen polymer nanofibres," Dr Naebe said.
"Polymer nanofibres are created through a process called electrospinning, which uses an electrical charge to draw very fine fibres from a liquid, in this case polymer solution. The idea was that if the polymer could form a shell, or crystallise, around the carbon nanotube, it would strengthen the nanofibre. Electrospinning is a very fast process and at first we thought it may be too rapid for the polymer to crystallise around the carbon nanotubes. But, in what we believe is a world-first, our research showed that crystallisation happens within fast-drawn polymer nanofibres," she said.
Dr Naebe says ultra-fine nanofibres have the potential to change our lives.
"I think polymer nanofibre technology, like the Internet, will revolutionise the way we live," she said. "It has the potential to improve technologies in medicine, energy, security, the environment and more. Tiny, powerful batteries; clothing that protects against chemical and biological hazards; filters to purify air; tissue scaffold implants to help repair injuries-all of these are potential nanofibre applications."
"We found that nanofibre strength is increased even further through simple post-manufacture treatments like soaking nanofibres reinforced with carbon nanotubes in alcohol, making the nanofibres 400 per cent stronger than previously possible.
"We have received positive feedback from international scientists regarding the light this research sheds on the interaction between the nanotubes and the host polymer and its potential to assist others to develop more effective carbon nanotube composite nanofibres."