Electromagnetic (EM) waves, such as electronic noise and radio frequency interference can be regarded as an invisible electronic pollution which justifies a very active quest for effective electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding materials. Highly conductive materials of adequate thickness are the primary solutions to shield against EMI. Equipment cases and basic structure of space aircraft and launch vehicles have traditionally been made of aluminum, steel and other electrically conductive metals. However, in recent years composite materials have been used for electronic equipment manufacturing because of their lightweight, high strength, and ease of fabrication. Despite these benefits, composite materials are not as electrically conductive as traditional metals, especially in terms of electrical grounding purposes and shielding. Therefore, extra effort must be taken to resolve these shortcomings. The present work demonstrates a study on developing hybrid composites based on fiberglass with surface grown carbon nanotubes (CNTs) for EMI applications. The choice of fiberglass is primarily because it naturally possesses poor electrical conductivity, hence growing CNTs over glass fiber surface can significantly improve the conductivity. The fabrics were sputter-coated with a thin layer of SiO2 thermal barrier prior to growing of CNTs. The CNTs were grown on the surface of woven fiberglass fabrics utilizing a relatively low temperature technique. Raw fiberglass fabric, SiO2 coated fabric, and SiO2 coated fabric which was subjected to the identical heat treatment as the samples with CNTs were also prepared. Two-layers composite specimens based on different surface treated fiberglass fabrics were fabricated and their EMI shielding effectiveness (SE) was measured. The EMI SE of the hybrid CNT-fiberglass composites was shown to be 5–10 times of the reference samples. However, the tensile mechanical properties of the composites based on the different above mentioned fibers revealed significant degradation due to the elevated CNT growth temperature and the addition of coating layer and CNTs. To further probe the structure of the hybrid composites and the inter-connectivity of the CNTs from one interface to another, sets of 20-layers composites based on different surface treated fabrics were also fabricated and characterized.

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