Structure and Morphology Control in Carbon Nanomaterials for Nanoelectronics and Hydrogen Storage

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Carbon nanomaterials have a wide range of promising and exciting applications. One of the most heavily investigated carbon nanomaterial in recent history has been the carbon nanotube. The intense interest in carbon nanotubes can be attributed to the many exceptional characteristics which give them great potential to revolutionize modern mechanical, optical and electronic technologies. However, controlling these characteristics in a scalable fashion has been extremely difficult. Although some progress has been made in controlling the quality, diameter distribution and other characteristics of carbon nanotube samples, several issues still remain. The two major challenges which have stood in the way of their mainstream application are controlling their orientation and their electronic characteristics. Developing and understanding a Chemical Vapor Deposition based carbon nanotube synthesis method has been the major focus of the research presented here. Although several methods were investigated, including the so-called "fast-heating, slow-cooling" and large feeding gas flowrate methods, it was ultimately found that high-quality, perfectly aligned carbon nanotubes from a variety of metal catalysts could be grown on quartz substrates. Furthermore, it was found that using MeOH could selectively etch small-diameter metallic carbon nanotubes, which ultimately led to the productions of perfectly aligned single-walled carbon nanotube samples consisting almost entirely of semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Thiophene was utilized to investigate and support the hypothesized role of MeOH in producing these selectively gown semiconducting carbon nanotube samples. Additionally, this sulfur-containing compound was used for the first time to demonstrate a two-fold density enhancement in surface grown carbon nanotube samples. This method for selectively producing perfectly aligned semiconducting carbon nanotubes represents a major step towards the integration of carbon nanotubes into mainstream applications.

Although extremely useful in a variety of technologies, carbon nanotubes have proven impractical for use in H2 storage applications. As such, microporous carbons have been heavily investigated for such ends. Microporous carbons have distinguished themselves as excellent candidates for H2 storage media. They are lightweight and have a net-capacity of almost 100%, meaning that nearly all of the H2 stored in these materials is easily recoverable for use in devices. However, developing a microporous carbon with the appropriately small pore diameters (~1nm), large pore volumes (>1cm3) and large surface areas (≥3000m2/g) has proven exceedingly difficult. Furthermore, maintaining the ideal graphitic pore structure has also been an unresolved issue in many production means. Several microporous carbon synthesis methods were investigated herein, including inorganic and organically templated production schemes. Ultimately, thermally treating poly (etherether ketone) in CO2 and steam environments was found to produce large surface area porous carbons (≥3000m2/g) with the appropriately small pore diameters (<3nm) and large pore volumes (>1cm3) necessary for optimized storage of H2. Furthermore, the surface chemistry of these pores was found to be graphitic. As a result of these ideal conditions, these porous carbons were found to store ~5.8wt.% H2 at 77K and 40bar. This represents one of the most promising materials presently under investigation by the United States Department of Energy H2 Sorption Center of Excellence.

The success of both of these materials demonstrates the diversity and promise of carbon nanomaterials. It is hoped that these materials will be further developed and will continue to revolutionize a variety of vital technologies.






McNicholas, Thomas Patrick (2009). Structure and Morphology Control in Carbon Nanomaterials for Nanoelectronics and Hydrogen Storage. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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