MRS Bulletin

Technical Feature

Technical Feature

Carbon Nanotube Electroactive Polymer Materials: Opportunities and Challenges

Liangti Qu, Qiang Peng, Liming Dai, Geoffrey M. Spinks, Gordon G. Wallace and Ray H. Baughman


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with macroscopically ordered structures (e.g., aligned or patterned mats, fibers, and sheets) and associated large surface areas have proven promising as new CNT electroactive polymer materials (CNT-EAPs) for the development of advanced chemical and biological sensors. The functionalization of CNTs with many biological species to gain specific surface characteristics and to facilitate electron transfer to and from them for chemical- and bio-sensing applications is an area of intense research activity.

Mechanical actuation generated by CNT-EAPs is another exciting electroactive function provided by these versatile materials. Controlled mechanical deformation for actuation has been demonstrated in CNT mats, fibers, sheets, and individual nanotubes. This article summarizes the current status and technological challenges for the development of electrochemical sensors and electromechanical actuators based on carbon nanotube electroactive materials.

Liangti Qu is a member of professor Liming Dai's research group at the University of Dayton. Qu received his PhD chemistry from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, in 2004. Afterward, he joined professor Dai's group at the University of Dayton. His current work focuses on the preparation of ordered carbon-based nanomaterials, including aligned single-walled and multiwalled carbon nanotubes, and their selective functionaliza-tion with inorganic and organic nanocomponents for various applications.

Qu can be reached at the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH 45469 USA; e-mail

Qiang Peng is a postdoctoral researcher in Liming Dai's group at the University of Dayton, Ohio. Peng received his PhD degree in organic chemistry from Sichuan University in China in 2004. Through August 2006, he held a Singapore Millennium Foundation postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore.

Peng's research areas include the synthesis and characterization of organic/polymer optoelectronic materials, nanomaterials, and devices.

Peng can be reached at the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH 45469 USA; e-mail

Liming Dai is the Wright Brothers Institute Endowed Chair Professor of Nano-materials in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at University of Dayton, Ohio. He also holds joint appointments in the Department and the University of Dayton Research Institute.

Dai's expertise ranges across several fields, including synthesis, chem ical modification, and device fabrication of conjugated polymers, fullerene-containing polymers, and carbon nano -tubes. He has authored or co-authored approximately 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, review papers, and book chapters. Dai also has published a research monograph on intelligent macromolecules and an edited book on carbon nanotechnology and holds roughly 20 registered or provisional patents.

He has received severa awards, including the 2006 Sigma Xi George B. Noland Research Award and the 2006 Outstanding Engineers and Scientists Award from the Affiliate Societies Council of Dayton.

Dai can be reached at the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton, OH 45469 USA; tel. 937-229-2670 and e-mail

Geoffrey M. Spinks is a professor of materials engineering at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

His original training was in the mechanical properties of polymers. More recently, he has conducted research into the mechanical properties and processing of conducting polymers. His work has included on the development and characterization of electromechanical actuators using conducting polymers and carbon nano tubes. Spinks has co-authored one book and more than 100 journal articles and conference papers and serves as a member of the editorial board for Progress in Organic Coatings.

In 1997, Spinks was awarded the Polymer Science and Technology Achievement Award from the Polymer Division of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute for outstanding research in polymers.

Spinks can be reached by e-mail at IPRI, University of Wollongong, Northfields Ave., Wollongong, NSW 2522 Australia; e-mail

Gordon G. Wallace is research director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science. He holds a DSc degree from Deakin University.

In 1990, Wallace was appointed professor at the University of Wollongong. He was awarded an ARC Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship in 1991 and an ARC Senior Research Fellowship in 1995. In 2002, Wallace was appointed to an ARC Professorial Fellowship and an E.T.S. Walton Fellowship from the Science Foundation Ireland in 2003.

He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Engineering, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI), and the Institute of Physics (U.K.). In 2006, he was awarded an ARC Federation Fellowship. He received the inaugural Polymer Science and Technology Achievement Award from RACI in 1992 and RACI's R.H. Stokes Medal for research in electrochemistry in 2004.

Wallace has published more than 380 refereed publications and a monograph on inherently conducting polymers for intelligent materials systems.

Wallace can be reached at IPRI, University of Wollongong, Northfields Ave., Wollongong, NSW 2522 Australia; e-mail

Ray H. Baughman is the Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and director of the NanoTech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas. He holds a BS degree in physics from Carnegie Mellon University and a PhD degree in materials science from Harvard University.

Upon graduation, Baughman joined Allied Chemical, which later became AlliedSignal and Honeywell. He was a corporate fellow of Honeywell/AlliedSignal until joining UT-Dallas in 2001, receiving technical achievement awards for developing new products in the areas of time-temperature indicators, polyaniline compositions and applications, and sonar hydrophones.

Baughman is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; a fellow of the American Physical Society and the World Innovation Foundation; an academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences; and an honorary professor at three universities in China. He serves on the editorial or advisory boards of Science, Synthetic Metals, the International Journal of Nanoscience, and the Encyclopedia of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

Baughman holds 57 U.S. patents and has more than 280 publications, with over 11,000 citations. He has recently received the New Materials Innovation Prize of the Avantex International Forum (2005), two Nano 50 Awards (2006 and 2007), the Scientific American 50 List recognition, Australia's NanoVic Prize (2006), the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award from Carnegie Mellon University, and the Kapitza Medal from the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (2007).

Baughman can be reached at the NanoTech Institute, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75083 USA; e-mail