Microstructure-property relationships of pressureless-sintered multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT)/alumina composites have been investigated using four types of MWCNTs having different mechanical characteristics as well as almost the same diameter and length; the influences of grain size, location of MWCNTs, fracture patterns, dispersion states of MWCNTs, and crack bridging characteristics of MWCNTs on the composites' mechanical properties have been explored. It has been found that the improvement in bending strength and fracture toughness observed for all types of the composites was primarily attributable to the grain refining effect by adding the MWCNTs and to the energy-dissipation by a MWCNT debonding and pullout, respectively. The number and size of clustered MWCNTs were increased in response to the increase in the MWCNT content, which resulted in the decrease in mechanical properties. The pressureless-sintered composites made with MWCNTs having larger load-bearing ability led to ~25% and ~45% improvement in bending strength (742.6±13.1MPa) and fracture toughness (5.83±0.19MPam1/2), respectively, than a MWCNT-free alumina.
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