In various embodiments, the present invention provides method of forming composites. Such methods generally comprise: (1) applying carbon nanotubes onto a system, wherein the system comprises at least one of an electric field or a magnetic field, and wherein the at least one electric field or magnetic field unidirectionally aligns the carbon nanotubes; and (2) applying a polymer onto the carbon nanotubes while the carbon nanotubes are unidirectionally aligned by the at least one electric field or magnetic field. The application of the polymer onto the carbon nanotubes forms composites that comprise unidirectionally aligned carbon nanotubes embedded in the polymer. In further embodiments, the present invention provides polymer composites formed by the methods of the present invention. Such polymer composites generally comprise: (1) a polymer, wherein the polymer forms a polymer matrix; and (2) a plurality of carbon nanotubes, wherein the carbon nanotubes are unidirectionally aligned and embedded in the polymer matrix.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH
 This invention was made with government support under Grant No. DE-AC26-07NT42677, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in the invention.