Effect of the aromatic precursor flow rate on the morphology and properties of carbon nanostructures in plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition
Understanding the effects of the synthesis parameters on the morphology and electrochemical properties of nanocarbon layers is a key step in the development of application-tailored nanostructures. In this paper we used an aromatic carbon as a new kind of precursor for the synthesis of carbon based nanostructures by plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD). Complex precursor molecules enable a new degree of influence over the atomic structure of PECVD synthesized carbons. Here, we report on the synthesis and characterization of the nanostructures resulting from varied flow rates of p-xylene used as carbon precursor. By changing the flow rate of the precursor, three different morphologies with graphitic character were synthesized. The resulting structures were carbon nanofibers (CNF), freestanding carbon nanowalls (fCNW) and interconnected carbon nanowalls (iCNW), formed at flow rates of 3 ml h−1, between 1 and 3 ml h−1 and less than 1 ml h−1, respectively. Structural characterization by transmission electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy indicate a lower defect density for the CNF in comparison to the CNW nanostructures. The electrochemical characterization of the oxygen reduction reaction onset potential and effective surface area feature a significantly higher onset at around −171 mV and an electrochemically active surface area of 0.76 μm−1 for the iCNW compared to −196 mV, 0.61 μm−1 and 0.22 μm−1 for the fCNW and CNF, respectively. The similarities in defect density and differences in activity observed for the iCNW and fCNF suggest that the kind of the defects determines the electrochemical properties. Thus, the iCNW was identified as the most appropriate morphology for further investigations.