Pressure-sensitive properties and microstructure of carbon nanotube reinforced cement composites

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) treated by using a mixed solution of H2SO4 and HNO3 were uniformly dispersed into cement paste by means of ultrasonic energy. Electrical resistivity and pressure-sensitive properties under cyclic compressive loading of this composite were analyzed and compared to that of untreated-CNT reinforced cement paste. Results show that the addition of treated or untreated CNTs to cement paste leads to a notable decrease in volume electrical resistivity and a distinct enhancement in compressive sensitivity. The microstructures of these cement composites were analyzed by using scanning electron microscope. The microscopic observation reveals that both treated and untreated CNTs were dispersed homogenously in the cement matrix. For untreated CNT-reinforced cement composites, the CNTs with glossy surface were zigzag and cling to cement matrix; the bridging of cracks and a well three-dimensional meshwork were also observed. For treated-CNT reinforced cement composites, the surface of CNTs was covered by C–S–H, which leads to a higher mechanical strength. The contact points of the treated-CNTs in composites were much fewer than that of the untreated-CNTs in cement matrix composites, which leads to a higher compressive sensitive properties and a lower electrical conductivity.