Dispersion analysis of carbon nanotubes, carbon onions, and nanodiamonds for their application as reinforcement phase in nickel metal matrix composites
Dispersions of multi-wall carbon nanotubes, onion-like carbon, and nanodiamonds in ethylene glycol are produced using a homogenizer and an ultrasonic bath, altering the treatment time. The dispersed particles are then used as reinforcement phase for nickel matrix composites. These nanoparticles are chosen to represent different carbon hybridization states (sp2 vs. sp3) or a different particle geometry (0D vs. 1D). This allows for a systematic investigation of the effect of named differences on the dispersibility in the solvent and in the composite, as well as the mechanical reinforcement effect. A comprehensive suite of complementary analytical methods are employed, including transmission electron microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering, sedimentation analysis, zeta-potential measurements, scanning electron microscopy, electron back scatter diffraction, and Vickers microhardness measurements. It can be concluded that the maximum achievable dispersion grade in the solvent is similar, not altering the structural integrity of the particles. However, nanodiamonds show the best dispersion stability, followed by onion-like carbon, and finally multi-walled carbon nanotubes. The distribution and agglomerate sizes of the particles within the composites are in good agreement with the dispersion analysis, which is finally correlated with a maximum grain refinement by a factor of 3 and a maximum mechanical reinforcement effect for nanodiamonds.