Polymer nanocomposites offer design solutions to control and tune optical, conductive, topological, and thermomechanical properties of advanced and multifunctional materials. Because of their ubiquitous nature, methodologies to diagnose failure or structural changes in the nanocomposites are of significant interest. Herein, we report a nanocomposite system loaded with quantum dots and coumarin-modified carbon nanotubes that transduce mechanical force into fluorescence at a strain, for the first time, as low as 7.5%. Our comprehensive studies detail the optical, morphological, and thermomechanical properties of these nanocomposites to establish the fundamental reason behind the activation of fluorescence. Our results indicate that bare carbon nanotubes can irreversibly quench the fluorescence from quantum dots and that the coumarin-modified carbon nanotubes mitigate the quenching through Förster Resonance Energy Transfer. Next, the application of force to the sample changes the quantum dot-carbon nanotube spacing as well as the carbon nanotube morphology to activate fluorescence in the nanocomposite. Overall, this force activation of fluorescence can serve as a general strategy for the development of a new class of mechano-responsive nanocomposites that impart polymeric materials with desirable functionalities including damage sensing and mechanical strength.
- Mechanoresponsive nanocomposite
- Stimuli-responsive nanocomposite
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Organic Chemistry
- Polymers and Plastics
- Materials Chemistry