Processing and properties of carbon nanotube-copper composites

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Pristine individual carbon nanotubes (CNT) exhibit extraordinary mechanical, thermal and electrical properties, which have been difficult to translate into practical applications. One route to obtaining improved material properties on a larger scale is to combine carbon nanotubes with a traditional conductor material, copper. Such composites have been proposed as a new generation of conductor materials to replace traditional copper conductors due to their potential for improving various properties of copper, such as specific electrical conductivity, current carrying capacity, mechanical properties and specific density. This thesis focuses on the electrochemical deposition process of copper onto premade carbon nanotube macrostructures, such as a CNT fiber, yarn and film, from aqueous copper sulphate electrolytes. The microstructure and specific electrical conductivity of the electrodeposited CNT-Cu samples are also investigated as well as the corrosion properties of CNT-Cu wires. The properties of pristine CNT macrostructures, such as low electrical conductivity, hydrophobicity and existence of impurities are found to affect the electrochemical deposition process considerably. Due to the low electrical conductivity of CNT macrostructures, the electrochemical deposition begins closest to the electrical contact and proceeds further as the copper deposit provides more conductivity to the working electrode. The degree of penetration of Cu on the inside of CNT material was found to be dependent on the porosity of CNT material, with higher porosity CNT macrostructures being easier to deposit on the inside. Oxidative pre-treatments were applied in order to improve the electrochemical response of the employed CNT films. The degree of the functionalization treatments, heat treatment and electro-oxidation, were controlled by the employed parameters. The electrochemical activity of CNT films could be considerably enhanced, while the undesired amorphous carbon particles were removed. In addition, the CNT film became hydrophilic, which enabled deposition inside the CNT network and not just on the surface of the film. The microstructure of CNT-Cu fibers and yarns were found to affect their specific electrical conductivity. At any given amount of nanotubes, the specific conductivity of CNT-Cu fibers, where carbon nanotubes are embedded inside a copper matrix is smaller than that for a CNT-Cu yarn with only a copper cladding surrounding the carbon nanotube core. This is assumed to be due to the high electrical resistance of the curved nanotubes themselves and the nanotube-nanotube junctions on the inside of the wire. The corrosion properties of CNT-Cu wires with 0.05 wt % multiwall nanotubes produced by casting and drawing were also investigated. The effect of the small concentration of nanotubes inside the copper matrix was shown to reduce the corrosion rate slightly. No galvanic corrosion between CNTs and the surrounding Cu matrix could be observed by measurements or from the sample surfaces.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Lundström, Mari, Supervisor
  • Aromaa, Jari, Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8425-1
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8426-8
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • carbon nanotube
  • copper
  • composite
  • electrodeposition

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