The introduction of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) into nonconducting polymers has been observed to yield orders of magnitude increases in conductivity at very low concentrations of CNTs. These low percolation concentrations have been attributed to both the formation of conductive networks of CNTs within the polymer and to a nanoscale effect associated with the ability of electrons to transfer from one CNT to another known as electron hopping. In the present work, a micromechanics model is developed to assess the impact of the effects of electron hopping and the formation of conductive networks on the electrical conductivity of CNT-polymer nanocomposites. The micromechanics model uses the composite cylinders model as a nanoscale representative volume element where the effects of electron hopping are introduced in the form of a continuum interphase layer, resulting in a distinct percolation concentration associated with electron hopping. Changes in the aspect ratio of the nanoscale representative volume element are used to reflect the changes in nanocomposite conductivity associated with the formation of conductive networks due to the formation of nanotube bundles. The model results are compared with experimental data in the literature for both single- and multi-walled CNT nanocomposites where it is observed that the model developed is able to qualitatively explain the relative impact of electron hopping and nanotube bundling on the nanocomposite conductivity and percolation concentrations.
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