Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) show an active behavior when they are positioned within an electric field, immersed into an electrolyte and charged. Several explanations are given, ranging from nanoscopic to macroscopic effects. This paper presents experimental proven explanations of the paper actuation and results using continuous CNTs of a CNT-array.
For the first test series specimens are cut off a paper manufactured of single-walled, μ-long CNTs working in series. The second test series uses specimens which are prepared of free standing multi-walled CNTs. Their CNT lengths reach macroscopic dimensions of almost 3 mm and they can be considered as connected in parallel. Both series are electromechanically tested.
The paper tests reveal their strong condition-dependent microstructure. Generally, the observed effects can be explained by diffusion of ions into the flexible CNT microstructure.
In contrast, the CNT-array based specimens show almost no condition dependency which can be explained by the strong carbon bonds. Due to specimen orientation and test set-up, macroscopic effects can be excluded. The found actuation can be attributed to an elongation of the carbon structure as result of ion-interaction. However, it must be assumed that there are further superimposing effects which might not be distinguished from each other down to the last detail.