Directed Assembly of 2D Materials for Next Generation Smart Composites

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Chemical and Materials Engineering.


Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering


Advisor: Christopher Muratore


Nanomaterials have been used in composites since as early as the fourth century, and since then revolutionary new materials under the classification of “nanomaterials” have been discovered. This has led to categorical subclasses of nanomaterials known as one-dimensional (nanorods), two-dimensional (planar sheets), and three-dimensional (nanoparticles), each with their own properties and applications. This work focuses on two-dimensional planar sheets, which provide unique properties that can be used to enhance composite materials. Until recently, two-dimensional materials were often used as fillers in a composite matrix, randomly dispersed, with the goal of boosting composite modulus, strength, or similar properties. However, with the inspiration of composite materials found in nature such as nacre, also known as “mother-of-pearl”, it has been discovered that by controlling the ordering on both the macro and nanoscale, these two-dimensional materials can provide a key to unlock even more unique, multifunctional properties of composites. The most widely studied 2D material, graphene, is a hexagonal carbon lattice that was found to have electrical and thermal conductivity through just a single molecular layer. However, more recently, a new class of 2D platelets has been discovered and termed “MXenes”. These new materials are two-dimensional transition metal carbide or nitride flakes with a lateral width ranging from 0.5 to 5 microns. The benefit of this new class of materials is thought to reside in their enhanced electrical conductivity, and their ability to form large-area films to be used in ordered composites. Through the use of an interfacial self-assembly process, 2D platelets can be induced into forming previously mentioned large-area, 2D, films on arbitrary substrates for further characterization. This work details the interfacial assembly process and characterizes the resulting film at different sonication times through a variety of methods. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is utilized to show greater than 85% surface coverage of MXene film, and greater than 75% surface coverage under ten nanometers of MXene film. Characterization of the resultant MXene films sheds light on the flake interaction during the film formation process for a more ordered control in future work. Additional work was done to synthesize and characterize vitrimer sheets as a function of film thickness via DSC, TGA, UV-Vis, and FT-IR in order to use them as a complimentary material with MXene for next generation nanocomposites.


MXene, vitrimer, hierarchical nanocomposite, multi-functionality, Ti3C2Tx film

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