Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Vol-3, Issue-10, 2017
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in
A Review on Polymer, Graphene and
Carbon Nanotube: Properties, Synthesis
and Applications
Binoy Bera
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, West Bengal University of Technology,
Abstract: In recent days, Polymer is very useful and
important material for its unique properties and
applications. A Polymer is a large molecule or
macromolecule which is composed of several
repeating subunits, called monomer. Polymers are
classified depending on several parameters like
arrangement of monomer, tacticity etc. It has several
applications in the field of industry, science and
medical. Several properties of polymers can be tuned
by embedding different materials with it. Among
them graphene and carbon nanotube are most
desirable material. Graphene is the latest discovery
belonging to the group of carbon allotropes and a
versatile material in nanotechnogy due to its unique
electronic, optical and mechanical properties. It is a
two dimensional material, a Single layer of graphite.
It has several properties such as conductive, flexible,
highly strong and transparent. On the other side,
carbon nanotube is most valuable material in several
applications for its unique electronic, mechanical
and optical properties. Like graphene and graphite,
it is also a carbon based material. Due to its high
surface to volume ratio, even a low content of
nanotube in polymer matrix can change the
interphase or interface region which changes their
properties significantly. The electromagnetism and
microwave absorption properties of several material
can be modified by incorporation of desired value of
carbon nanotube with that material. Dielectric
properties of several polymer materials also can be
modified by embedding carbon nanotube with it. It is
also acted as a filler material for introducing
Piezoelectricity in some Polymer material. Here
properties of polymer, graphene and carbon
nanotube has been discussed in brief. Synthesis and
applications of these three materials are also the key
focus of this paper.
Keywords: Carbon; Graphite; Carbon nanotube;
Chemical vapour deposition; drug delivery;
graphene; Polymer; tensile strength; tissue
engineering; Two dimension.
Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
1. Introduction
A Polymer literally means many parts. It is a specific
thing, usually a molecule or material made of smaller
repeating units which are called monomer. 'Poly'
means many and 'mer' means meros(units) i.e. when
many meros join together, then they are called
Polymer. It has a high molecular mass. Here
monomer joins together by using covalent bonding,
hydrogen bonding etc. On the basis of type of
monomer, it is classified as homopolymer and
copolymer. When one type of monomer is used to
form the Polymer, then they are called homopolymer
(polyethylene[1], polyvinylidene fluoride[2-4] etc). On
the other hand when two or more monomer joins
together, then they are called co- Polymer (PVDF TrFE)[5]. Polymer is also classified as naturally
occurring Polymer and synthetic Polymer. Polymers
such as proteins, starch. Cellulose found in nature are
called naturally occurring Polymer[6]. Polymers
which are made commercially are called synthetic
Polymer[7]. Polymer can be classified on several
parameters like chemical structure, polymeric
structure, arrangement of monomer, tacticity, thermal
behaviour, molecular forces, and method of
synthesis[8-12]. On the basis of Polymeric structure, it
is classified as linear, branched and cross linked
polymers. Linear Polymer consists of a long string of
monomers, attached in a linear manner. Branched
Polymer consists of branches at irregular intervals
along the polymer chain. Cross liked Polymer
contains short side chains that connect different
Polymer chains onto a network. On the basis of
arrangement of monomers, it is classified as block
polymers, graft copolymers. On the basis of tacticity,
polymers are classified as isotactic, syndiotactic and
atactic polymers. Isotactic Polymers are those
polymers whose side groups of the monomers lie on
the same side of the chain. Polymers whose side
chain are arranged in an alternative manner are called
syndiotactic Polymer. If the side groups are arranged
in an irregular or random manner, then it is called
atactic Polymer. On the basis of thermal behaviours
of polymers upon heating, they are classified as
thermoplastic and thermo sets. Polymers are
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Vol-3, Issue-10, 2017
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in
classified as elastomers and fibres on the basis of
molecular forces. Here number of monomer can be
from N =100 to N = 10000, even N is may go higher
than 100000. Here N is called degree of
Polymerizations. N can be determined from this
formula N = molecular weight of Polymer
molecule/molecular weight of monomer. Repeating
units i.e. used in Polymer formation, are often made
of carbon, hydrogen and sometimes oxygen,
nitrogen, sulphur, chlorine, fluorine, Phosphorus
even silicon. Recently porous polymer is much more
interesting due to their porous structure. In that case
porosity [13-14] is very important property. Depending
on that property, it is suitable in several applications
like energy harvesting, drug delivery, tissue
engineering e.t.c. In the applications of
nanotechnogy, graphene is a versatile two
dimensional semiconducting material. Graphene, a
Single layer of graphite, is an allotropes of carbon.
Its strucIture is like lots of benzene rings connected
together where hydrogen atoms are replaced by the
carbon atoms. It is the basic structural element of
other allotropes such as graphite, charcoal, carbon
nanotubes and fullerenes. It was originally observed
in electron microscope in 1962, but it was studied
only while supported on metal surfaces[15]. Later in
2004, the material was rediscovered by Andre Geim
and Konstantin Novoselov at the university of
Figure 1: Classification of polymers
Its amazing properties as the lightest and strongest
material, compared with its ability to conduct heat
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and electricity better than any other material, makes
them suitable to integrate into several applications.
However, due to its unique properties, graphene has
turned into a hot topic both in the industry and
academia. With these unique features, graphene has
applications in flexible and wearable electronics,
antennas, pressure sensor design, flexible
displays, photovoltaics and rechargeable batteries.
Furthermore. It is also used as additive material for
producing piezoelectricity in several Polymer
material[17-26]. The remarkable thing about graphene
is that it's 2D crystalline structure. On the other hand,
the discovery of carbon nanotube[27-29] in 1991
opened up a new era in material Science and
technology. The name of carbon nanotube is derived
from their size since the diameters of nanotube as
small as 1 nanometer and length upto several
centimetres. A carbon nanotube is a tube shaped
material which is made of carbon, having a high
aspect ratio. Until the mid-1980's pure solid carbon
was thought to exist in only two physical forms,
diamond[30-32] and graphite[33-35]. In 1985, a group of
researchers led by Richard Smalley and Robert cart
of Rice university in Houston and Harry kroto of the
university of Sussex in England discovered C60
cluster, a new form of allotropes of carbon. It was a
spherical shape and formed a ball of with 32 faces(12
were Pentagon and 20 were hexagon exactly like
soccer ball). After that several allotropes of carbon
like C36, C76 and C84 were also discovered. In 1991,
SUMIO IIJIMA discovered a needle like material
when examining carbon materials under an electron
microscope. Then it was proved to have a graphite
structure and named it as carbon nanotube. It shows
incredible and unique electronic, magnetic and
mechanical properties which have caused researchers
to consider using them in several fields. Now
researchers are doing their experiment on carbon
nanotube as a filler in Polymer based energy
harvesting devices[36-44]. Carbon nanotubes are
composed of carbon atoms linked in a hexagonal
shapes, with each carbon atom covalently bonded to
three other carbon atoms. They are normally
categorised in two types, single walled carbon
nanotube(SWCNT)[45] and multi walled carbon
nanotube(MWCNT)[46]. Carbon nanotubes which
occur as multiple concentric cylinders of carbon
atoms are called multi walled carbon nanotubes. On
the other hand, carbon nanotube which have only one
cylinder are called single walled nanotube. Again
carbon nanotubes has a cylindrical shape, may be
with open ends or closed ends. Diameters of single
walled carbon nanotubes and multi walled carbon
nanotubes are typically from 0.8 to 2 nm and 5 to 20
nm respectively. Although MWCNT diameters can
exceed 100 nm. However when a graphene layer is
wrapped into a cylindrical or tube structure, they are
called carbon nanotube. In MWCNT, each tube is
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held at a distance from either of its neighbouring
tubes by interatomic forces.
2. Structure and Properties
2.1 Polymer
Figure 3: (a) single walled carbon nanotube; (b)
multiwalled carbon nanotube; (c) carbon nanotube
with closed end.
Polymers are made of several monomers connecting
together. So the basic properties of Polymer is
identified by its constituent monomer. Polymer
properties are also depends on the arrangement of
monomer and how they are connecting each other.
Physical properties of a Polymer are depends on the
size of the length of the polymer chain. Several
properties like melting temperature, boiling
temperature, viscosity, resistance to flow are
increased due to increase in length of the polymer
chain. Polymer is also characterized by its
crystallinity. Semi crystalline Polymer are more
tougher I.e. they can be bent more without breaking
than amorphous polymers. Several other properties
like piezoelectricity , ferroelectricity are determined
by their crystallinity, electro active phase.
Mechanical properties such as tensile strength,
young’s modulus are also important in its application
Polymer type
Figure 4: Tensile strength, elongation and tensile
modulus of different polymers.
A Polymer has tensile strength means it is strong
when it is stretched or compressed. To measure the
tensile strength of any Polymer sample, first it is
stretched by a machine such as an instron. This
machine clamps each end of the sample. When it is
stretched, a force F is exerted by the sample. By
simply dividing that force by the cross sectional area
of the sample give the measurement of tensile
strength. When this strength is divided by the strain
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Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Vol-3, Issue-10, 2017
ISSN: 2454-1362, http://www.onlinejournal.in
(change in length/actual length) gives the young’s
and with a tensile stiffness of 150,000,000 Psi), the
best conductor of heat at room temperature (4.84 ±
0.44) *103 W/m/K and also the best conductor of
electricity (electron mobility more than 15000
cm2/V/S. Graphene also exibit a half integer
Quantum hall effect due to the charge carriers act as
quasi-particles, otherwise known as massless Dirac
fermions. In this effect, the path of the carriers
become curved, leading to an accumulation of
opposite charges at either end of the material. Due to
the 2D structure of graphene, the electron
confinement produces discrete band levels known as
Landau levels, which are filled by the charge
carriers. It can withstand upto 42 N/m of stress with
a youngs modulus of 1.0 TPa.
Figure 6: graphene structure in different ways.
Figure 5: Characteristics and properties of polymer.
2.2 Graphene
In simple terms, graphene is a thin layer of pure
carbon. It is a Single tightly packed layer of carbon
atoms that are bonded together in a hexagonal
honeycomb lattice. Furthermore, it is an allotropes of
carbon in the structure of a plane of sp2 bonded
atoms with molecule bond length of 0.142
nanometers. Layers of graphene stacked on top of
each other form graphite, with an interplanar spacing
of 0.335 nanometers. It is the thinnest compound at
one atom thick, the lightest material with weight of
0.77 milligrams of 1 square meter area. Moreover, it
is the strongest material (100-300 stronger than steel
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2.3 Carbon Nanotube
Several carbon based material have been discovered
so far. Among them graphite, and carbon nanotube
are interconnected to each other. Graphite is the most
stable form of crystalline carbon. It consists many
layers of carbon atoms. The carbon atoms are
strongly bound to each other through covalent
bonding. The layers are weakly bound to each other
by Lagrange vanderwalls type interaction. Here
carbon-carbon distance and inter layer distance are
~0.14 nm and ~0.34 nm respectively. However
graphene is a single atomic layer of crystalline
graphite. When these graphene sheets wrapped into a
cylinder, are called then carbon nanotube. The way
graphene sheets are wrapped, is represented by a pair
of indices(n,m). The integers n and m denote the
number of unit vectors along two directions in the
honeycomb crystal lattice of graphene. If m=0, the
nanotubes are called zigzag nanotubes, and if n=m,
the nanotubes are called armchair nanotubes.
Otherwise they are called chiral. The diameter of this
nanotube can be calculated from its indices (n,m).
D=a/π√(n2+nm+m2)=78.3√[(n+m)2-nm] pm, where a
= 0.246 nm. Single walled carbon nanotube
properties changes significantly with the (n,m)
values. It has excellent mechanical[47] and
electronic[48] properties. In MWCNT, the graphene
sheets are arranged in concentric cylinder, e.g. ,
a(0,5) single walled carbon nanotube within a layer
(0,14) single walled nanotube. Carbon nanotube are
the strongest and stiffest material yet scientist
discovered in terms of tensile strength and elastic
module. Covalent sp2
bonds formed between
individual carbon atoms, results in showing high
strength[49-52]. However graphene is a two
dimensional semimetal but carbon nanotube can be
either metallic or semiconducting. For a (n,m)
nanotube, if n=m, the nanotube is metallic. If (n-m)
is a multiple of 3 and n≠m and nm≠0, then it is
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semimetallic with a very small band otherwise it is a
moderate semiconductor.
reducing the temperature to 1000 degree celcius, a
catalyst such as copper is used.
Figure 7: Structure of carbon nanotube.
Figure 9: Chemical vapour deposition method for
graphene synthesis
3.3 Carbon Nanotube
Figure 8: Properties of carbon nanotube.
3. Synthesis
3.1 Polymer
Polymer is synthesized by using polymerization
process where monomers joins together using
covalent bonding. Laboratory synthetic methods are
categories, step-growth
polymerization and chain-growth polymerization. In
chain-growth polymerization process, monomers are
added to the chain one at a time only and in stepgrowth polymerization chains of monomers combine
with one another directly.
3.2 Graphene
Graphene can be synthesized in three different ways
such as chemical vapour deposition[56], chemical or
plasma exfoliation from natural graphite[57],
mechanical cleavage from natural graphite[58].
Among all these methods, chemical vapour
deposition is most common method used for
production of graphene. In CVD process, graphene is
formed on the surface of substrate which is placed in
a reaction chamber. In that process, high heat is
applied to break the carbon bonds of precursor
materials. Normally heat required in that process is
around 2500 degree celcius without catalyst. So for
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Several techniques have discovered so far for
producing carbon nanotubes. Techniques for
producing carbon nanotubes are arc discharge[59],
laser ablation[60], high pressure carbon monoxide
deposition[62-63]. Most of these properties took place
in vacuum or with process gas. Among all these
methods, chemical vapour deposition is popular and
suitable for preparation of carbon nanotubes. In CVD
technique, a carbon source in the gas phase and a
energy sources such as plasma or a resistively coil is
used. Furthermore resistively coil is used to transfer
the energy to this gaseous molecule. Hydrocarbon
like methane, carbon monoxide and acetylene is used
as a sources of carbon. At high temperature, the
hydrocarbons are broken into hydrogen carbon bond,
producing pure carbon molecules. This carbon
molecules diffuse towards the substrate which is
heated and coated with catalyst (first row transition
metals like Ni, Fe or Co) where it will bind. Carbon
nanotubes are formed if the proper parameters are
maintained. All these process happened in a quartz
tube. The advantages of this process such as low
input power, lower temperature range, relatively high
purity and possible to scale up the process. In this
method both multi walled and single walled carbon
nanotubes can be formed.
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Figure 10: Chemical vapour deposition process for
CNT synthesis.
2. 4. Applications
Today Polymer has several application[64-68] in our
daily life. Synthetic Polymer are used rapidly for
carrying goods. It is also used in industrial
applications. It is used in different industries like
automotive, aerospace, medical, building, carrying
goods, packaging. Polymers can be used as piping
systems for chemicals, transport hoses, conveyor
belt, tanks and a large number of other products.
Polymer properties are also important for their
suitable choice of applications. Polymers are also
used as coating material that provides superior
adherence and protection from corrosion. Polymer
coatings can be applied to metals, ceramics as well as
synthetic materials. Polymer coating into a metallic
surface increases its ionic resistance. Acrylics and
alkyds are widely used in farm equipment and
industrial products. Polyurethane is used in conveyor
equipment, aircrafts, radomes e.t.c. Some Polymers
in coating allows the creation of hydrophobic
surfaces and the effective prevention of the sticking
of various substances such as adhesives/rubber/
synthetic materials to their surfaces. Natural
polymers are used in drug delivery systems, tissue
engineering applications. Mainly biopolymers are
used for this kind of applications. It is also used to
design artificial skin, bone, cartiledge and several
organs. Piezoelectric Polymer like PVDF, PVDF TrFE is used in energy harvesting application. This
kind of Polymer generates voltage when a
mechanical force or pressure applied on it. On the
basis of these properties, it is used for powering selfpowered micro or Nano devices. Piezoelectric
Polymer is also used to harvest energy from different
renewable resources like wind, rain and ocean wave.
So Polymer (in the form of raw materials, Polymer
compounds, foams, structural adhesives and
composites, fillers, fibres, membranes, emulsions,
coatings, rubber, sealing materials, solvent) is useful
in all applications.
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Used in
ne bags,
Fig. 11: Application of polymers in different field.
4.2 Graphene
Due to the excellent and amazing properties,
graphene has the potential applications to
revolutionized entire industries - in the field of
electricity, conductivity, energy generation, batteries,
sensors and more. Graphene is the world's strongest
material, and so it can be used to enhance the
strength of other material, specially Polymer which
has less strength. Graphene enhanced composite
materials can find uses in aerospace building
materials, mobile devices e.t.c.. Furthermore,
graphene is the world's most conductive material to
heat. It is also strong and light which makes it
suitable in heat sink Applications. It is also used in
battery and supercapacitor applications[69]. So almost
in every field, graphene has suitable application[70].
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Figure 13: Different applications of carbon
Figure 12: applications of graphene.
4.3 Carbon Nanotube
Carbon nanotubes have extraordinary electrical
conductivity[71], heat conductivity[72] and mechanical
properties[73] which makes them suitable in numerous
applications. It is the best known field emitters of
any material. Now plastics are used as a replacement
of metal in several applications. But they are not
conductive to electricity. Carbon nanotube has higher
aspect ratio and their tendency to form ropes
provides inherently very long conductive pathway
makes them suitable as a additives with plastics to
make it conductive so that it could be used as a
replacement of metal in several applications. It is
also used as electrodes in batteries and capacitors.
Though it has potential applications as solar
collection, nanoporous filter catalyst supports and as
coating matetial. It is also used as additives in several
polymers to make them piezoelectric. This property
is used in harvesting mechanical energy into
electrical energy. So in all the fields, CNT is very
useful and important material.
Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)
Polymers are studied in the fields of biophysics,
macromolecular science and Polymer science.
Polymers, Polymer derivatives and Polymeric
combinations which play special and important roles
in diverse field of human activities. Polymers are
normally synthesized through polymerization process
where many monomers bonded together by using
covalent bonding. Polymer is used in carrying goods,
for making pipes. Even energy is harvested through
polymers. Some Polymer gives voltage as output
when they are heated. Based on these properties, they
are used rapidly in sensor and actuator applications.
Beside this, bio-polymer is used in drug delivery,
tissue engineering applications. So polymers are
widely used in almost every field of science[74-78],
medical, industry and human day to day life.
Today's the electronic industry is almost based on
silicon material. Every electronic devices such as
diode, transistors, metal oxide semiconductor field
effect transistors e.t.c. are mostly fabricated by using
silicon as raw material. Now the discovery of
graphene opens a new era for fabricating such kind
of electronic devices. Graphene alone will never
replace silicon for the simple fact that graphene isn’t
a semiconductor. A sheet of pure graphene conducts
electricity brilliantly, but it can’t shut off the flow of
electrons. That’s the difference between a conductor
and a semiconductor. In that case graphene is useful
as additive with other material for fabricating this
type of electronic devices. Nobody can predict what
would be the future. It may happen that graphene
could take the good position in world electronic
market. Application of CNT in various fields due to
its robust structure and metallic or semiconducting
properties makes it one of the promising material in
nanotechnogy. It has potential of making almost
every manufacturer product faster, lighter, stronger,
smarter, safer and cleaner. Carbon nanotubes has
theoretically higher performance than copper, which
makes them suitable several applications. As we
progress into an era of nanotechnogy, molecular
devices are becoming promising becoming
alternatives to the silicon technology. Carbonnanotube field-effect
transistors, are being
extensively studied as possible replacement of silicon
MOSFET. Due to its many unique properties, it is
also used as a additives with several material for
making them suitable in desired applications. So
almost in every field of science and technology CNT
is very useful.
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