Synergistic effect of multi walled carbon nanotubes and reduced graphene oxides in natural rubber for sensing application
Utilizing the electrical properties of polymer nanocomposites is an important strategy to develop high performance solvent sensors. Here we report the synergistic effect of multi walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) and reduced graphene oxide (RGO) in regulating the sensitivity of the naturally occurring elastomer, natural rubber (NR). Composites were fabricated by dispersing CNTs alone and together with exfoliated RGO sheets (thermally reduced at temperatures of 200 and 600 °C ) in NR by a solution blending method. RGO exfoliation and the uniform distribution of fillers in the composites were studied by atomic force microscopy, Fourier transformation infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. The solvent sensitivity of the composite samples was noted from the sudden variation in electrical conductivity which was due to the breakdown of the filler networks during swelling in different solvents. It was found that the synergy between CNTs and RGO exfoliated at 200 °C imparts maximum sensitivity to NR in recognizing the usually used aromatic laboratory solvents. Mechanical and dynamic mechanical studies reveal efficient filler reinforcement, depending strongly on the nature of filler–elastomer interactions and supports the sensing mechanism. Such interactions were quantitatively determined using the Maier and Göritz model from Payne effect experiments. It is concluded that the polarity induced by RGO addition reduces the interactions between CNTs and ultimately results in the solvent sensitivity.