Investigations of carbon nanotube catalyst morphology and behavior with transmission electron microscopy
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are materials with significant potential applications due to their desirable mechanical and electronic properties, which can both vary based on their structure. Electronic applications for CNTs are still few and not widely available, mainly due to the difficulty in the control of fabrication. Carbon nanotubes are grown in batches, but despite many years of research from their first discovery in 1991, there are still many unanswered questions regarding how to control the structure of CNTs. This work attempts to bridge some of the gap between question and answer by focusing on the catalyst particle used in common CNT growth procedures. Ostwald ripening studies on iron nanoparticles are performed in an attempt to link catalyst morphology during growth and CNT chirality (the structure aspect of a nanotube that determines its electrical properties). These results suggest that inert gas dynamics play a critical role on the catalyst morphology during CNT growth. A novel method for CNT catalyst activation by substrate manipulation is presented. Results of this study build upon prior knowledge of the role of the chemistry of the substrate supporting CNT catalysts. By bombarding sapphire, a substrate known to not support CNT growth, with an argon ion beam, the substrate is transformed into an active CNT growth support by modifying both the structure and chemistry of the sapphire surface. Finally, catalyst formation is studied with transmission electron microscopy by depositing an iron gradient film in order to identify a potential critical catalyst size and morphology for CNT growth. A relationship between catalyst size and morphology has been identified that adds evidence to the hypothesis that a catalysts activity is determined by its size and ability to properly reduce.
Kvam, Purdue University.
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