The structural phase transformation and etching of the sidewalls of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) by hydrogen plasma and the effect on the dispersion and mechanical properties of polyetherimide (PEI) composites was investigated. Surface-modified MWCNTs with various plasma treatment times were characterized using FESEM, HRTEM, Raman spectroscopy, FT-IR, and XPS. The results showed that plasma treatment facilitates the attachment of functional groups while damaging and detaching the sidewalls of the MWCNTs and modifying the crystallinity of the graphene layer. The mechanical properties of the PEI composites with the modified MWCNTs depended on the degree of damage to the surface and crystallinity modification of the MWCNTs. Hydrogen plasma treatment led to a significant improvement in the dispersion and mechanical properties of PEI/MWCNT composites due to the surface modification of the MWCNTs.
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