A novel technique to grow carbon nanotubes (CNTs) on the surface of carbon fibers in a controlled fashion using simple lab set up is developed. Growing CNTs on the surface of carbon fibers will eliminate the problem of dispersion of CNTs in polymeric matrices. The employed synthesis technique retains the attractive feature of uniform distribution of the grown CNTs, low temperature of CNTs’ formation, i.e. 550 °C, via cheap and safe synthesis setup and catalysts. A protective thermal shield of thin ceramic layer and subsequently nickel catalytic particles are deposited on the surface of the carbon fiber yarns using magnetron sputtering. A simple tube furnace setup utilizing nitrogen, hydrogen and ethylene (C2H4) were used to grow CNTs on the carbon fiber yarns. Scanning electron microscopy revealed a uniform areal growth over the carbon fibers where the catalytic particles had been sputtered. The structure of the grown multiwall carbon nanotubes was characterized with the aid of transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Dynamical mechanical analysis (DMA) was employed to measure the loss and storage moduli of the hybrid composite together with the reference raw carbon fiber composite and the composite for which only ceramic and nickel substrates had been deposited on. The DMA tests were conducted over a frequency range of 1–40 Hz. Although the storage modulus remained almost unchanged over the frequency range for all samples, the loss modulus showed a frequency dependent behavior. The hybrid composite obtained the highest loss modulus among other samples with an average increase of approximately 25% and 55% compared to composites of the raw and ceramic/nickel coated carbon fibers, respectively. This improvement occurred while the average storage modulus of the hybrid composite declined by almost 9% and 15% compared to the composites of reference and ceramic/nickel coated samples, respectively. The ultimate strength and elastic moduli of the samples were measured using standard ASTM tensile test. Results of this study show that while the addition of the ceramic layer protects the fibers from mechanical degradation it abolishes the mechanisms by which the composite dissipates energy. On the other hand, with almost no compromise in weight, the hybrid composites are good potential candidate for damping applications. Furthermore, the addition of CNTs could contribute to improving other mechanical, electrical and thermal properties of the hybrid composite.

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