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UC Researchers Shatter World Records with Length of Carbon Nanotube Arrays


University of Cincinnati researchers lead the world in the synthesis of extremely long aligned carbon nanotube arrays. The research has implications for medical, aerospace, electronic and other applications.


Date: 4/27/2007 12:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Other Contact: Vesselin Shanov
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-2461
Photos By: Vesselin Shanov and Mark Schulz

UC ingot  

UC engineering researchers have developed a novel composite catalyst and optimal synthesis conditions for oriented growth of multi-wall CNT arrays. And right now they lead the world in synthesis of extremely long aligned carbon nanotube arrays.

Optical images of a 12-mm-thick carpet of aligned CNTs grown on a 4-inch wafer. These samples prove that scaling up of the growth process of super-long carbon nanotube arrays on large area substrates is possible.
Optical images of a 12-mm-thick carpet of aligned CNTs grown on a 4-inch wafer. These samples prove that scaling up of the growth process of super-long carbon nanotube arrays on large area substrates is possible.

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are of great interest because of their outstanding mechanical, electrical and optical properties. Intense research has been undertaken to synthesize long aligned CNTs because of their potential applications in nanomedicine, aerospace, electronics and many other areas.

 

Especially important is that long CNT arrays can be spun into fibers that are — in theory — significantly stronger and lighter than any existing fibers and are electrically conductive. Nanotube fibers are expected to engender revolutionary advances in the development of lightweight, high-strength materials and could potentially replace copper wire.

 

Carbon nanotube arrays can also be grown in intricate patterns using metal masks. The figure above shows a CNT array image of the American flag.
Carbon nanotube arrays can also be grown in intricate patterns using metal masks. The figure above shows a CNT array (optical image) of the American flag.

 

Years of effort by UC researchers Vesselin Shanov and Mark Schulz, co-directors of the University of Cincinnati Smart Materials Nanotechnology Laboratory, along with Yun YeoHeung and students, led to the invention of the method for growing long nanotube arrays. Employing this invention, the UC researchers (in conjunction with First Nano, a division of CVD Equipment Corporation of Ronkonkoma, New York) have produced extremely long CNT arrays (18 mm) on their EasyTube System using a Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) process (see figure "a" in the photo).

 


Moreover, in a re-growth experiment on a separate substrate, they produced an 11-mm long CNT array. This array was then successfully peeled completely off the substrate. Without additional processing, the same substrate was reused for a successive growth that yielded an 8-mm-long CNT array (figure "b"). 

The photographs in figures "c" and "d," above, are scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) images of the multi-wall CNT arrays.

 Shanov notes that their research has had four major milestones this year already.

The figure above shows a CNT array image of UC|21, representing UC's strategic mission statement.
The figure above shows a CNT array image of UC|21, representing UC's strategic mission statement.

“First, we were able to grow the arrays up to 18 mm,” he says, ticking off the achievements. “Second, we produced a uniform carpet of 12-mm carbon nanotube arrays on a 4-inch wafer, which moves the invention into the field of scaled-up manufacturing for industrial application. Third, we filed a patent application on the inventions at the US Patent and Trademark Office and, fourth, we were invited to participate in a very prestigious workshop (invitation-only) organized by NASA and Rice University, where we presented our latest results. The workshop focused on “Single Wall Carbon Nanotube Nucleation and Growth Mechanisms.” This event was attended by the best scientists in the world working on synthesis carbon nanotubes, from Japan, China, Europe and the United States. Our presentation was accepted very well and confirmed that with the current record of 18-mm-long carbon nanotube arrays, and also with the big area growth on 4-inch wafers, we are leading in manufacturing extremely long CNT arrays.”

The Fine Print and Nano Details
The UC substrate for growing CNT arrays is a multilayered structure with a sophisticated design in which a composite catalyst is formed on top of an oxidized silicon wafer. Its manufacturing requires a “clean room” environment and thin-film deposition techniques that can be scaled up to produce commercial quantities. CNT synthesis is carried out in a hydrogen/hydrocarbon/water/argon environment at 750 degrees Celsius. The achievement of growing centimeter-long nanotube arrays provides hope that continuous growth of CNTs in the meter length range is possible. Leonard Rosenbaum, president and CEO of CVD Equipment Corporation, is looking forward to continuing the partnership with UC to bring this technology from the laboratory into full-scale production. UC is also partnering with another company to develop production of long CNT arrays that can be spun into fibers.

This research was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant CMS-051-0823 (program directors Shih-Chi Liu & K. Jimmy Hsia) and the Office of Naval Research (program director Ignacio Perez) through North Carolina A&T SU (program directors Jag Sankar & Sergey Yarmolenko). CVD Equipment Corporation engineers developed and built the EasyTube System used by First Nano to grow the long CNT arrays. 

 

Other Nano News at UC
3/5/2009  
Spinning Carbon Nanotubes Spawns New Wireless Applications
Lighter, cheaper, safer — a team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati, known for their world record-breaking carbon nanotubes, has discovered new applications of use to both military and consumer audiences.

11/29/2006   University of Cincinnati Researchers Grow Their Longest Carbon Nanotube Ever
A nanospace race has raged to successfully grow a nanotube array suitable for many uses. And today a UC research team, in conjunction with First Nano, is ahead — by a thousandth of a hair.

9/29/2005   Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ Curriculum! NSF Grant Enables UC to Bring Nano to the Undergraduates
An interdisciplinary, intercollegiate group of UC researchers has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education grant, "Integration of Nanoscale Science and Engineering into Undergraduate Curricula."

8/26/2005   Good Things Come in Nano Packages at the University of Cincinnati
In recognition for its commitment to nanotechnology, UC was recently ranked #2 in the United States for nanotechnology education by Small Times magazine. And in July, Nanoengineering of Structural, Functional and Smart Materials was published by CRC Press. The volume, which was co-edited by UC’s Mark Schulz, contains 24 chapters, four of which are co-authored by UC faculty.

About the University of Cincinnati (UC)
The University of Cincinnati, home to more than 35,000 students, offers students a balance of educational excellence and real-world experience. Since its founding in 1819, UC has been the source of many discoveries creating positive change for society, including the first antihistamine, co-op education, the first electronic organ, the Golden Gate Bridge designer and the oral polio vaccine. Each year, this urban, public, research university graduates 5,000 students, adding to more than 200,000 living alumni around the world. UC is the largest employer in the Cincinnati region, with an economic impact of more than $3 billion. The University of Cincinnati is located in Cincinnati, Ohio.