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For the preparation of novel organogel–carbon nanotube nanocomposites, pristine single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) were incorporated into physical gels formed by an L-alanine based low molecular mass organogelator (LMOG). The gelation process and the properties of the resulting nanocomposites were found to depend on the kind of SWNTs incorporated in the gels. With pristine SWNTs, only a limited amount could be dispersed in the organogels. Attempted incorporation of higher amounts of pristine SWNTs led to precipitation from the gel. To improve their solubility in the gel matrix, a variety of SWNTs functionalized with different aliphatic and aromatic chains were synthesized. Scanning electron microscope images of the nanocomposites showed that the texture and organization of the gel aggregates were altered upon the incorporation of SWNTs. The microstructures of the nanocomposites were found to depend on the kind of SWNTs used. Incorporation of functionalized SWNTs into the organogels depressed the sol to gel transition temperature, with the n-hexadecyl chain functionalized SWNTs being more effective than the n-dodecyl chain functionalized counterpart. Rheological investigations of pristine SWNT containing gels indicated that the flow of nanocomposites became resistant to applied stress at a very low wt% of SWNT incorporation. Again more effective control of flow behavior was achieved with functionalized SWNTs possessing longer hydrocarbon chains. This happens presumably via effective interdigitation of the pendant chains with the fatty acid amides of L-alanine in the gel assembly. Remarkably, using near IR laser irradiation at 1064 nm for a short duration (1 min) at room temperature, it was possible to selectively induce a gel-to-sol phase transition of the nanocomposites, while prolonged irradiation (30 min) of the organogel under identical conditions did not cause gel melting.
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Journal of Materials Chemistry
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