Additive-free carbon nanotube dispersions, pastes, gels, and doughs in cresols

Kevin Chiou, Segi Byun, Jaemyung Kim, Jiaxing Huang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Cresols are a group of naturally occurring and massively produced methylphenols with broad use in the chemical industry. Here, we report that m-cresol and its liquid mixtures with other isomers are surprisingly good solvents for processing carbon nanotubes. They can disperse carbon nanotubes of various types at unprecedentedly high concentrations of tens of weight percent, without the need for any dispersing agent or additive. Cresols interact with carbon nanotubes by charge transfer through the phenolic hydroxyl proton and can be removed after processing by evaporation or washing, without altering the surface of carbon nanotubes. Cresol solvents render carbon nanotubes polymer-like rheological and viscoelastic properties and processability. As the concentration of nanotubes increases, a continuous transition of four states can be observed, including dilute dispersion, thick paste, freestanding gel, and eventually a kneadable, playdough-like material. As demonstrated with a few proofs of concept, cresols make powders of agglomerated carbon nanotubes immediately usable by a broad array of material-processing techniques to create desirable structures and form factors and make their polymer composites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5703-5708
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
StatePublished - May 29 2018


  • Carbon nanotubes
  • Cresol
  • Dough
  • Solution processing
  • Viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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