Process-morphology scaling relations quantify self-organization in capillary densified nanofiber arrays†
Capillary-mediated densification is an inexpensive and versatile approach to tune the application-specific properties and packing morphology of bulk nanofiber (NF) arrays, such as aligned carbon nanotubes. While NF length governs elasto-capillary self-assembly, the geometry of cellular patterns formed by capillary densified NFs cannot be precisely predicted by existing theories. This originates from the recently quantified orders of magnitude lower than expected NF array effective axial elastic modulus (E), and here we show via parametric experimentation and modeling that E determines the width, area, and wall thickness of the resulting cellular pattern. Both experiments and models show that further tuning of the cellular pattern is possible by altering the NF–substrate adhesion strength, which could enable the broad use of this facile approach to predictably pattern NF arrays for high value applications.