Boston College Researches Uncover Early Phases of Carbon Nanotube Growth

Christopher William Ince Jr. writes about a new insight into how nanotubes grow, which may lead to even more useful technological applications for these nanostructures:

Physicists Zhifeng Ren and Hengzhi Wang of Boston College have discovered two initial stages of carbon nanotube growth previously obscured during the growth process. What the researches found is that carbon nanotube growth undergoes an initial phase in which newly grown tubes appear haphazardly arranged, followed by a second stage in which the tubes become more aligned. The third stage, and the one responsible for masking the initial two phases, is the stage in which the tubes are fully aligned. This stage of tube development is the one most used by researchers.

Ren and Wang explain that the reason these initial two stages of carbon nanotube growth have been overlooked is due to the process used in plasma enhanced vapor deposition. During this process, the nanotubes are grown by the decomposition of gasses causing carbon atoms to accumulate on a catalyst particle. Each time plasma is applied to the catalyst, the previous stage is obscured, which the researchers say is the reason these two initial growth phases were not discovered sooner. Ren and Wang had used a thin catalyst layer in their research, which also made possible the discovery of these early phases.

Because carbon nanotubes in these initial growth phases provide a larger surface area than in when they are in their fully-aligned stage, the researchers believe they may be useful for applications such as cooling integrated circuits used in electronics.

Source: Hayward, E. (2011). Physicists at Boston College Discover Two Early Stages of Carbon Nanotube Growth. Boston College Office of News Public Affairs, 2011 Retrieved from

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