The nanoskins combine the strength and conductivity of carbon nanotubes with the flexibility of traditional ploymers for a variety of applications, from electronic paper to sensors for detecting chemical and biological agents.
"Researchers have long been interested in making composites of nanotubes and polymers, but it can be difficult to engineer the interfaces between the two materials," said Professor Pulickel Ajayan. "We have found a way to get arrays of nanotubes into a soft polymer matrix without disturbing the shape, size, or alignment of the nanotubes."
The skins can be bent, flexed and rolled up like a scroll, all while maintaining their ability to conduct electricity.
"The general concept ... could have many other applications, all the way from adhesive structures and Velcro-like materials to nanotube interconnects for electronics," said Swastik Kar, a postdoctoral researcher at Rensselaer and lead author of the paper, along with Yung Joon Jung, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University and a recent doctoral student in Ajayan's Rensselaer lab.
The research appears in the March issue of the journal Nano Letters.