Plasma-enabled, catalyst-free growth of carbon nanotubes on mechanically-written Si features with arbitrary shape

Kumar, Shailesh, Levchenko, Igor, Ostrikov, Kostya, & McLaughlin, James A. (2012) Plasma-enabled, catalyst-free growth of carbon nanotubes on mechanically-written Si features with arbitrary shape. Carbon, 50(1), pp. 325-329.

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Simple, rapid, catalyst-free synthesis of complex patterns of long, vertically aligned multiwalled carbon nanotubes, strictly confined within mechanically-written features on a Si(1 0 0) surface is reported. It is shown that dense arrays of the nanotubes can nucleate and fully fill the features when the low-temperature microwave plasma is in a direct contact with the surface. This eliminates additional nanofabrication steps and inevitable contact losses in applications associated with carbon nanotube patterns.

Using metal catalyst has long been considered essential for the nucleation and growth of surface-supported carbon nanotubes (CNTs) [1] and [2]. Only very recently, the possibility of CNT growth using non-metallic (e.g., oxide [3] and SiC [4]) catalysts or artificially created carbon-enriched surface layers [5] has been demonstrated. However, successful integration of carbon nanostructures into Si-based nanodevice platforms requires catalyst-free growth, as the catalyst nanoparticles introduce contact losses, and their catalytic activity is very difficult to control during the growth [6]. Furthermore, in many applications in microfluidics, biological and molecular filters, electronic, sensor, and energy conversion nanodevices, the CNTs need to be arranged in specific complex patterns [7] and [8]. These patterns need to contain the basic features (e.g., lines and dots) written using simple procedures and fully filled with dense arrays of high-quality, straight, yet separated nanotubes. In this paper, we report on a completely metal or oxide catalyst-free plasma-based approach for the direct and rapid growth of dense arrays of long vertically-aligned multi-walled carbon nanotubes arranged into complex patterns made of various combinations of basic features on a Si(1 0 0) surface written using simple mechanical techniques. The process was conducted in a plasma environment [9] and [10] produced by a microwave discharge which typically generates the low-temperature plasmas at the discharge power below 1 kW [11].

Our process starts from mechanical writing (scribing) a pattern of arbitrary features on pre-treated Si(1 0 0) wafers. Before and after the mechanical feature writing, the Si(1 0 0) substrates were cleaned in an aqueous solution of hydrofluoric acid for 2 min to remove any possible contaminations (such as oil traces which could decompose to free carbon at elevated temperatures) from the substrate surface. A piece of another silicon wafer cleaned in the same way as the substrate, or a diamond scriber were used to produce the growth patterns by a simple arbitrary mechanical writing, i.e., by making linear scratches or dot punctures on the Si wafer surface. The results were the same in both cases, i.e., when scratching the surface by Si or a diamond scriber. The procedure for preparation of the substrates did not involve any possibility of external metallic contaminations on the substrate surface.

After the preparation, the substrates were loaded into an ASTeX model 5200 chemical vapour deposition (CVD) reactor, which was very carefully conditioned to remove any residue contamination. The samples were heated to at least 800 °C to remove any oxide that could have formed during the sample loading [12]. After loading the substrates into the reactor chamber, N2 gas was supplied into the chamber at the pressure of 7 Torr to ignite and sustain the discharge at the total power of 200 W. Then, a mixture of CH4 and 60% of N2 gases were supplied at 20 Torr, and the discharge power was increased to 700 W (power density of approximately 1.49 W/cm3). During the process, the microwave plasma was in a direct contact with the substrate. During the plasma exposure, no external heating source was used, and the substrate temperature (∼850 °C) was maintained merely due to the plasma heating. The features were exposed to a microwave plasma for 3–5 min. A photograph of the reactor and the plasma discharge is shown in Fig. 1a and b.

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16 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 73628
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2011.07.060
ISSN: 0008-6223
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 09 Jul 2014 03:53
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2014 05:30

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