Carbon nanostructures such as carbon nanotube (CNT), graphene, and carbon fibers can be used as fillers in amorphous polymers to improve their thermal properties. In this study, the effect of covalent bonding of CNT with poly(ether ketone) (PEK) on interfacial thermal interactions is investigated using non-equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations. The number of covalent bonds between (20, 20) CNT and PEK is varied in the range of 0–80 (0%–6.25%), and the thermal boundary conductance is computed. The analysis reveals that covalent functionalization of CNT atoms can enhance the thermal boundary conductance by an order of magnitude compared to the non-functionalized CNT-PEK interface at a high degree of CNT functionalization. Besides strengthening the thermal coupling, covalent functionalization is also shown to modify the phonon spectra of CNT. The transient spectral energy analysis shows that the crosslinks cause faster energy exchange from CNT to PEK in different frequency bands. The oxygen atom of hydroxyl group of PEK contributes energy transfer in the low frequency band, while aromatic and carbonyl carbon atoms play a more significant role in high frequency bands. In addition, by analyzing the relaxation time of the spectral temperature of different frequency bands of CNT, it is revealed that with increasing number of bonds, both lower frequency vibrational modes and higher frequency modes efficiently couple across the CNT-PEK interface and contribute in thermal energy transfer from CNT to the matrix.

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