Polymeric materials such as polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and PMMA incorporating aligned carbon nanotubes show great potential for use as novel membrane systems. This happens because their nanoscale structures mimics the selective transport and extraordinarily fast flow possible in biological cellular channels with a wide range of potential applications. Indeed, it has been shown that membranes based on polymer encapsulation of aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) arrays exhibit unusual enhancements in transport rates and non-Knudsen selectivities for gas mixtures and water, mainly due to the almost frictionless interface at the carbon-nanotube walls. Thus, water flow rates through them are measured to be four to five orders of magnitude faster than conventional fluid flow would predict through pores of 7 nm diameter. CNTs are also imbedded in polymeric matrices in order just to achieve simply structural reinforcement (improvement of the mechanical properties of the resulting nanocomposites). Although a considerable amount of research has been devoted in the literature to understand the factors that govern mechanical strength and the barrier properties of CNT/polymer nanocomposites, a comprehensive understanding is still lacking. We try to fill this gap by pursuing a computational materials design approach which utilizes state-of-the-art multiscale modelling:
Our goal is predict the transport properties (solubility, diffusion, and pressure-driven flow rates) of small fluid molecules first through a CNT and then through the CNT-polymer membrane, for selected polymer chemistries and small penetrant molecules.