Arrays of horizontal carbon nanotubes of controlled chirality grown using designed catalysts

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Abstract

The semiconductor industry is increasingly of the view that Moore’s law—which predicts the biennial doubling of the number of transistors per microprocessor chip—is nearing its end1. Consequently, the pursuit of alternative semiconducting materials for nanoelectronic devices, including single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), continues2,3,4. Arrays of horizontal nanotubes are particularly appealing for technological applications because they optimize current output. However, the direct growth of horizontal SWNT arrays with controlled chirality, that would enable the arrays to be adapted for a wider range of applications and ensure the uniformity of the fabricated devices, has not yet been achieved. Here we show that horizontal SWNT arrays with predicted chirality can be grown from the surfaces of solid carbide catalysts by controlling the symmetries of the active catalyst surface. We obtained horizontally aligned metallic SWNT arrays with an average density of more than 20 tubes per micrometre in which 90 per cent of the tubes had chiral indices of (12, 6), and semiconducting SWNT arrays with an average density of more than 10 tubes per micrometre in which 80 per cent of the nanotubes had chiral indices of (8, 4). The nanotubes were grown using uniform size Mo2C and WC solid catalysts. Thermodynamically, the SWNT was selectively nucleated by matching its structural symmetry and diameter with those of the catalyst. We grew nanotubes with chiral indices of (2m,m) (wheremis a positive integer), the yield of which could be increased by raising the concentration of carbon to maximize the kinetic growth rate in the chemical vapour deposition process. Compared to previously reported methods, such as cloning5,6, seeding7,8and specific-structure-matching growth9,10,11, our strategy of controlling the thermodynamics and kinetics offers more degrees of freedom, enabling the chirality of as-grown SWNTs in an array to be tuned, and can also be used to predict the growth conditions required to achieve the desired chiralities.

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