Thomas F. Lam*, Jonathan P. Winterstein**, Renu Sharma*, and James A. Liddle*


*Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, National Institute of Standards and Technology,  100 Bureau Dr., Gaithersburg, MD 20899

**FEI Company, 5350 NE Dawson Creek Dr., Hillsboro, OR, 97124


One promising application for carbon nanotubes is in nanocomposites for high-performance structural applications.  The detailed arrangement – dispersed, clustered, networked, etc. –  of the carbon nanotube structures within the composite can have a dramatic effect on the material’s bulk properties.  In order to quantitatively characterize the carbon nanostructure morphology and distribution, we use transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and statistical analysis methods.


In this study, an industrial nanocomposite sample (from Applied Nanostructured Solutions) consisting of carbon nanotubes grown on carbon fiber and embedded in epoxy resin was analyzed.  A major challenge is preparing high-quality, electron-transparent samples from such heterogeneous material, and we present results obtained using dual beam focus ion beam (DB-FIB) and ultramicrotomy.  In addition, we demonstrate the use of energy filtered transmission electron microscopy (EFTEM) as an additional imaging modality to enhance the visibility of the carbon nanostructures within the essentially carbon matrix of the composite resin.