Towards large scale production and separation of carbon nanotubes
Alvarez, Noe T.
Tour, James M.
Doctor of Philosophy
Since their discovery, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have boosted the research and applications of nanotechnology; however, many applications of CNTs are inaccessible because they depend upon large-scale CNT production and separations. Type, chirality and diameter control of CNTs determine many of their physical properties, and such control is still not accesible. This thesis studies the fundamentals for scalable selective reactions of HiPCo CNTs as well as the early phase of routes to an inexpensive approach for large-scale CNT production. In the growth part, this thesis covers a complete wet-chemistry process of catalyst and catalyst support deposition for growth of vertically aligned (VA) CNTs. A wet-chemistry preparation process has significant importance for CNT synthesis through chemical vapor deposition (CVD). CVD is by far, the most suitable and inexpensive process for large-scale CNT production when compared to other common processes such as laser ablation and arc discharge. However, its potential has been limited by low-yielding and difficult preparation processes of catalyst and its support, therefore its competitiveness has been reduced. The wet-chemistry process takes advantage of current nanoparticle technology to deposit the catalyst and the catalyst support as a thin film of nanoparticles, making the protocol simple compared to electron beam evaporation and sputtering processes. In the CNT selective reactions part, this thesis studies UV irradiation of individually dispersed HiPCo CNTs that generates auto-selective reactions in the liquid phase with good control over their diameter and chirality. This technique is ideal for large-scale and continuous-process of separations of CNTs by diameter and type. Additionally, an innovative simple catalyst deposition through abrasion is demonstrated. Simple friction between the catalyst and the substrates deposit a high enough density of metal catalyst particles for successful CNT growth. This simple approach has potential for metal catalyst deposition to grow vertical array CNTs on large surface substrates as well as to develop nano- and micro-patterns of catalyst and CNT growth. The CNTs produced from abraded catalyst have similar qualities to CNTs synthesized from evaporated catalyst.