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Carbon Nanotube-Based Functional Materials for Optical Limiting

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Optical limiting is an important application of nonlinear optics, useful for the protection of human eyes, optical elements, and optical sensors from intense laser pulses. An optical limiter is such a device that strongly attenuates high intensity light and potentially damaging light such as focused laser beams, whilst allowing for the high transmission of ambient light. Optical limiting properties of carbon nanotube suspensions, solubilized carbon nanotubes, small molecules doped carbon nanotubes and polymer/carbon nanotube composites have been reviewed. The optical limiting responses of carbon nanotube suspensions are shown to be dominated by nonlinear scattering as a result of thermally induced solvent-bubble formation and sublimation of the nanotubes, while the solubilized carbon nanotubes optically limit through nonlinear absorption mechanism and exhibit significant solution-concentration-dependent optical limiting responses. In the former case the optical limiting results are independent of nanotube concentrations at the same linear transmittance as that of the solubilized systems. Many efforts have been invested into the research of polymer/carbon nanotube composites in an attempt to allow for the fabrication of films required for the use of nanotubes in a real optical limiting application. The higher carbon nanotube content samples block the incident light more effectively at higher incident energy densities or intensities. The optical limiting mechanism of these composite materials is quite complicated. Besides nonlinear scattering contribution to the optical limiting, there may also be other contributions e.g., nonlinear absorption, nonlinear refraction, electronic absorption and others to the optical limiting. Further improvements in the optical limiting efficiency of the composites and in the dispersion and alignment properties of carbon nanotubes in the polymer matrix could be realized by variation of both nanostructured guest and polymer host, and by ex situ alignment and other methods. It would be very desirable, from the practical application point of view, if one can design broadband optical limiting chromophores that would function in a multimechanistic fashion.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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  • Journal for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (JNN) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal with a wide-ranging coverage, consolidating research activities in all areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology into a single and unique reference source. JNN is the first cross-disciplinary journal to publish original full research articles, rapid communications of important new scientific and technological findings, timely state-of-the-art reviews with author's photo and short biography, and current research news encompassing the fundamental and applied research in all disciplines of science, engineering and medicine.
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