Continuous Deposition of Carbon Nanotubes in an Arc-reactor and their Application in Field Emission Devices
Thesis DisciplineChemical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Carbon nanotubes have become one of the most important building blocks critical to nanotechnology. Carbon nanotubes have attracted the interests of many scientists since their discovery due to their remarkable properties and have been widely used for various applications. However, the bottle neck in nanotube research has been the lack of a cheap, continuous and fast nanotube production method. This study concerns a reactor where nanotubes are continuously deposited on a carbon substrate using arc discharge at atmospheric pressure. This process appears to be the first to employ an arc discharge as the method for continuous mass deposition of nanotubes on a substrate. This nanotube deposition method eliminates the generic multistep process of nanotube deposition on substrates for its use in many applications. The effect of various parameters influencing growth and morphology of nanotubes on the substrate in the arc reactor (inter-electrode gap, atmosphere composition, current density, flushing, substrate type and speed and catalyst) have been systematically explored to optimise nanotube growth. The field emission properties of the nanotube laden substrate are studied for use and applicability as electron emitters. The nanotube samples demonstrated superior emission properties, low turn-on field and excellent current stability when put into applications such as a luminescent tube and an ionisation sensor. Theoretical modelling of the behaviour of a single nanotube during field emission was performed using finite element analysis software (COMSOL 3.2) to understand the effect of nanotube length, diameter, and vacuum gap on an individual nanotube. The results reveal that resistive heating (temperature) limits the maximum current carried by an individual nanotube. Furthermore, a new growth model is introduced to explain the formation of nanotubes from graphene fragments and nanocrystallites, due to polarisation of carbon species near the electrode surface suggesting that carbon vapour is unlikely to be responsible for nanotube growth.