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Effect of hydrogen on catalyst nanoparticles in carbon nanotube growth

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4 Author(s)
Behr, Michael J. ; Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA ; Gaulding, E.Ashley ; Mkhoyan, K.Andre ; Aydil, Eray S.

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The structures of carbon nanotubes grown from catalytic nanoparticles via plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition in CH4/H2 mixtures show a strong dependence on the H2-to-CH4 ratio in the feed gas. A suite of characterization techniques, including optical emission, infrared, and Raman spectroscopies combined with convergent-beam and selected-area electron diffraction, and high-resolution (scanning) transmission electron microscopy imaging were used to systematically investigate the interrelation among plasma gas phase composition, catalysts morphology, catalyst structure, and carbon nanotube structure. Hydrogen plays a critical role in determining the final carbon nanotube structure through its effect on the catalyst crystal structure and morphology. At low H2-to-CH4 ratios (∼1), iron catalyst nanoparticles are converted to Fe3C and well-graphitized nanotubes grow from elongated Fe3C crystals. High (>5) H2-to-CH4 ratios in the feed gas result in high hydrogen concentrations in the plasma and strongly reducing conditions, which prevents conversion of Fe to Fe3C. In the latter case, poorly-graphitized nanofibers grow from ductile bcc iron nanocrystals that are easily deformed into tapered nanocrystals that yield nanotubes with thick walls.

Published in:

Journal of Applied Physics  (Volume:108 ,  Issue: 5 )