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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Carbon nanotubes : synthesis, characterization, and applications

  • Author(s): Deck, Christian Peter
  • et al.

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) possess exceptional material properties, making them desirable for use in a variety of applications. In this work, CNTs were grown using two distinct catalytic chemical vapor deposition (CVD) procedures, floating catalyst CVD and thermal CVD, which differed in the method of catalyst introduction. Reaction conditions were optimized to synthesize nanotubes with desired characteristics, and the effects of varying growth parameters were studied. These parameters included gas composition, temperature, reaction duration, and catalyst and substrate material. The CNT products were then examined using several approaches. For each CVD method, nanotube growth rates were determined and the formation and termination mechanisms were investigated. The effects of reaction parameters on nanotube diameters and morphology were also explored to identify means of controlling these important properties. In addition to investigating the effects of different growth parameters, the material properties of nanotubes were also studied. The floating catalyst CVD method produced thick mats of nanotubes, and the mechanical response of these samples was examined using in-situ compression and tension testing. These results indicated that mat structure is composed of discontinuous nanotubes, and a time-dependent response was also observed. In addition, the electrical resistance of bulk CNT samples was found to increase for tubes grown with higher catalyst concentrations and with bamboo morphologies. The properties of nanotubes synthesized using thermal CVD were also examined. Mechanical testing was performed using the same in-situ compression approach developed for floating catalyst CVD samples. A second characterization method was devised, where an optical approach was used to measure the deflection of patterned nanotubes exposed to an applied fluid flow. This response was also simulated, and comparisons with the experimental data were used to determine the flexural rigidity of these CNT arrays. In this work, two potential applications for carbon nanotubes were also considered. Using the experimental method employed for flexural rigidity measurements, a carbon nanotube-based fluid flow sensor that offered fast response and repeatability was demonstrated. There is also great interest in CNTs for high strength applications, and the growth of nanotubes for the spin-processing of CNTs into micron-scale fibers was also investigated.

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