A novel particles-compositing method was used for the first time to disperse different contents of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in micron sized copper powders, which were subsequently consolidated into CNT/Cu composites by spark plasma sintering (SPS). Microstructural observations showed that the homogeneous distribution of CNTs and dense composites could be obtained for 0-10 vol.% CNT contents. The CNT clusters were appeared in the powder mixture with 15 vol.% CNTs, which resulted in an insufficient densification of the composites. The effective thermal conductivity of the composites was analyzed both theoretically and experimentally. The addition of CNTs showed no enhancement in overall thermal conductivity of the composites due to the interface thermal resistance associated with the low phase contrast of CNT to copper and the random tube orientation. Besides, the composite containing 15 vol.% CNTs led to a rather low thermal conductivity due possiblely to the combined effect of unfavorable factors induced by the presence of CNT clusters, i.e. large porosity, lower effective conductivity of CNT clusters themselves and reduction of SPS cleaning effect. The CNT/Cu composites may be a promising thermal management material for heat sink applications. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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