, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 143-149
Date: 21 Nov 2012

Surfactants for CNTs dispersion in zirconia-based ceramic matrix by sol–gel method

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Zirconium oxide is a ceramic material widely studied due to its mechanical and electrical properties that can be improved with the use of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) as reinforcement. The synthesis of CNT/zirconia composites by sol–gel method is still very scarce, due to the hydrophobic nature of the CNTs, being their dispersion in aqueous medium an intrinsic difficulty to the synthesis. In this work, we present a sol–gel synthesis for MWCNTs/zirconia composites, where two kinds of surfactants, sodium and ammonium stearates dissolved in water (1 g/100 mL), were used as dispersant agents for multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). They are cheap and easy to prepare, and were very effective in dispersing the MWCNTs. Different quantities of MWCNTs (up to 5 wt%) were added in the solution of stearate/water and this solution with the highly dispersed MWCNTs was added to the zirconia sol–gel, producing composites of MWCNTs/zirconia with different concentrations of MWCNTs. All the powders were heat treated at 300 and 500 °C and the powder characterization was performed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The composite MWCNTs/zirconia remained amorphous at 300 °C and presented a tetragonal phase at 500 °C with an average grain size of about 20 ± 3 nm, determined by the Scherrer equation from the XRD patterns. For these crystalline samples, TEM images suggest a more effective interaction between MWCNTs with ZrO2 matrix, where it can be observed that the carbon nanotubes are fully coated by the matrix.