Effects of Feed Gas Composition and Catalyst Thickness on Carbon Nanotube and Nanofiber Synthesis by Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition

R K. Garg, Purdue University
S S. Kim, Purdue University
D. B. Hash, NASA Ames Research Center
Jay P. Gore, Purdue University
Timothy Fisher, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University

Date of this Version


This document has been peer-reviewed.



Many engineering applications require carbon nanotubes with specific characteristics such as wall structure, chirality and alignment. However, precise control of nanotube properties grown to application specifications remains a significant challenge. Plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) offers a variety of advantages in the synthesis of carbon nanotubes in that several important synthesis parameters can be controlled independently. This paper reports an experimental study of the effects of reacting gas composition (percentage methane in hydrogen) and catalyst film thickness on carbon nanotube (CNT) growth and a computational study of gas-phase composition for the inlet conditions of experimentally observed carbon nanotube growth using different chemical reaction mechanisms. The simulations seek to explain the observed effects of reacting gas composition and to identify the precursors for CNT formation. The experimental results indicate that gas-phase composition significantly affects the synthesized material, which is shown to be randomly aligned nanotube and nanofiber mats for relatively methane-rich inlet gas mixtures and non-tubular carbon for methane-lean incoming mixtures. The simulation results suggest that inlet methane-hydrogen mixture coverts to an acetylene-methane-hydrogen mixture with minor amounts of ethylene, hydrogen atom, and methyl radical. Acetylene appears to be the indicator species for solid carbon formation. The simulations also show that inlet methane-hydrogen mixture does not produce enough gas-phase precursors needed to form quality CNTs below 5% CH4 concentrations in the inlet stream.