Carbon nanotube as a conductive rheological modifier for carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy 3D printing inks

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Department of Chemical Engineering; Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics; Department of Biomedical Engineering


Rheological modifiers enable direct ink writing of polymers with low viscosity such as epoxy without requiring light or heat. Modifiers that conduct electrons and phonons impart multifunctional properties to 3D printed polymers. Here, we report the development of printable nanocomposite inks comprised of epoxy, carbon fibers (CFs), and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to achieve excellent mechanical properties and multifunctionality via high electrical conductivity required for next-generation light weight aerospace, electronics, and energy applications. CF and CNT concentrations of 8.5 and 1.7 wt%, respectively, render the material shear-thinning with a high yield stress, hence printable and self-supporting after being printed. An average electrical conductivity of 10−2 S/cm and thermal conductivity of 0.3 W/m.K were measured for the 3D-printed multi-layer structures. Furthermore, tensile modulus, tensile strength, flexural modulus, and flexural strength were measured to be 5.8, 0.08, 6.0, and 0.1 GPa, respectively. Compared with other 3D printed conductive polymer nanocomposites with reported electrical conductivity and elastic modulus, the structures here have the highest specific elastic modulus. They also possess the highest electrical conductivity among the 3D printed polymeric composites of carbon nanomaterials with an elastic modulus above 1 GPa. This is due to the outstanding combination of CNTs, CFs, and epoxy. The results expand the range of polymer properties for multifunctional applications.

Publication Title

Composites Part B: Engineering