Gaseous product mixture from Fischer–Tropsch synthesis as an efficient carbon feedstock for low temperature CVD growth of carbon nanotube carpets†
Low-temperature chemical vapor deposition (CVD) growth of carbon nanotube (CNT) carpets from Fe and Fe–Cu catalysts using a gaseous product mixture from Fischer–Tropsch synthesis (FTS-GP) as a superior carbon feedstock is demonstrated. This growth approach addresses a persistent issue of obtaining thick CNT carpets on temperature-sensitive substrates at low temperatures using a non-plasma CVD approach without catalyst pretreatment and/or preheating of the carbon feedstock. The efficiency of the process is evidenced by the highly dense, vertically aligned CNT structures from both Fe and Fe–Cu catalysts even at temperatures as low as 400 °C – a record low growth temperature for CNT carpets obtained via conventional thermal CVD. The grown CNTs exhibit a straight morphology with hollow interior and parallel graphitic planes along the tube walls. The apparent activation energies for CNT carpet growth on Fe and Fe–Cu catalysts are 0.71 and 0.54 eV, respectively. The synergistic effect of Fe and Cu show a strong dependence on the growth temperature, with Cu being more influential at temperatures higher than 450 °C. The low activation energies and long catalyst lifetimes observed are rationalized based on the unique composition of FTS-GP and Gibbs free energies for the decomposition reactions of the hydrocarbon components. The use of FTS-GP facilitates low-temperature growth of CNT carpets on traditional (alumina film) and nontraditional substrates (aluminum foil) and has the potential of enhancing CNT quality, catalyst lifetime, and scalability.