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Synthesis, transfer printing, electrical and optical properties, and applications of materials composed of self-assembled, aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes
Pint, Cary L.
Hauge, Robert H.
Doctor of Philosophy
Super growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) has emerged as a unique method for synthesizing self-assembled, pristine, aligned SWNT materials composed of ultra-long (millimeter-long) nanotubes. This thesis focuses on novel routes of synthesizing such self-assembled SWNTs and the challenges that arise in integrating this material into next-generation applications. First of all, this work provides unique insight into growth termination of aligned SWNTs, emphasizing the mechanism that inhibits the growth of infinitely long nanotubes. Exhaustive real-time growth studies, combined with ex-situ and in-situ TEM characterization emphasizes that Ostwald ripening and subsurface diffusion of catalyst particles play a key role in growth termination. As a result, rational steps to solving this problem can enhance growth, and may ultimately lead to the meter or kilometer-long SWNTs that are necessary for a number of applications. In addition, other novel synthesis routes are discussed, such as the ability to form macroscopic fibrils of SWNTs, called "flying carpets" from 40 nm thick substrates, and the ability to achieve supergrowth of SWNTs that are controllably doped with nitrogen. In the latter case, molecular heterojunctions of doped and undoped sections in a single strand of ultralong SWNTs are demonstrated Secondly, as supergrowth is conducted on alumina coated SiO2 substrates, any applications will require that one can transfer the SWNTs to host surfaces with minimal processing. This work demonstrates a unique contact transfer route by which both patterned arrays of SWNTs, or homogenous SWNT carpets, can be transferred to any host surface. In the first case, the SWNTs are grown vertically aligned, and transferred in patterns of horizontally aligned SWNT. This transfer process relies on simple water-vapor etching of amorphous carbons at the catalyst following growth, and strong van der Waals adhesion of the high surface-area SWNT to host surfaces (gecko effect). Next, as the SWNTs produced in supergrowth are notably large in diameter (2-5 nm), this work provides the first characterization of these SWNTs using combined microscopy and infrared polarized absorption studies. Perfectly aligned SWNTs are transferred to infrared optical windows and mounted in a rotatable vacuum cell in which polarization dependent characterization is carried out. By modeling features observed in absorption to expected optical excitonic transition energies, diameter distributions are rapidly extracted. In addition, other concepts of optical characterization in ultra-long aligned SWNTs are explored. For example, the concept of using polarized near-IR characterization for such SWNT samples is inadequate to characterize the bulk alignment due to the mismatch of the excitation wavelength and the SWNT length. Therefore, comparing anisotropy in polarized near-IR Raman or absorption gives substantially different results than anisotropic electrical transport measurements. In addition to optical characterization, this work uniquely finds that the electrical transport properties of SWNTs is ultimately limited by SWNT-SWNT junctions. This is evident in temperature-dependent DC and AC conductivity measurements that emphasize localization-induced transport characteristics. A number of non-classical electrical transport features are observed that can simply be related to the sensitivity of electrical transport to SWNT-SWNT junctions. This means that despite the incredible electrical properties of individual SWNTs, it is necessary to focus on the growth and processing of ultra-long SWNTs in order to realistically make nanotube-based materials comparable in transport characteristics to conventional materials. Finally, this work concludes by demonstrating progress on the fabrication of new SWNT-based applications. First of all, a new type of solid-state supercapacitor material is fabricated where vertically aligned SWNT are coated with metal-oxide dielectric and counterelectrode layers to form efficient supercapacitors. This design benefits from the ultra-high surface area available in SWNT arrays, the intrinsic ultra-high current carrying capacity of ultra-long SWNT (1000 times copper), the high breakdown voltages one can achieve using solid dielectric layers, and the lightweight and temperature insensitive design of this capacitor. As a result, performance comparable to current electric-double layer capacitor devices is reported, and energy densities significant larger are predicted by material optimization. In addition, progress on other applications are discussed, including devices utilizing self-assembled molecular heterojunction arrays, and terahertz polarizers made from perfectly aligned transferred SWNT films. This work demonstrates a bottom-up route toward the synthesis of new materials for novel characterization and applications.
Condensed matter physics