Effects of Catalysts on the Internal Structures of Carbon Nanotubes and Corresponding Electron Field Emission Properties


Using a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method, multi-walled carbon nanotubes with uniform diameters of approximately 10 nm were synthesized on silicon substrates by the decomposition of acetylene using Fe, Co and Ni as the catalysts. Catalyst effects on the internal structures of the carbon nanotubes were evident in the Fe, Co and Ni catalyzed nanotubes. Although these nanotubes demonstrated similar morphologies, due to the variety of internal structures, the nanotubes synthesized from different catalysts demonstrated various electron field-emission characteristics including turn-on field, threshold field and field enhancement factor. Compared with carbon nanotubes from Ni catalyst, nanotubes from Fe and Co with the same diameters have better field-emission properties. Graphite layers in nanotubes from Fe and Co are much straighter and more parallel to the tube axis with fewer defects. For instance, the turn-on field and threshold field for nanotubes from Ni are 5 V/μm and 9 V/μm, respectively. These electric fields are much higher than those for nanotubes from Fe, which are 0.35 V/μm and 2.8 V/μm, respectively. This could be due to the effect of catalysts on the work function of nanotubes, since the catalyst particle usually terminates the free end of the nanotube, and the influence of internal structure on electron transportation along the nanotube axis. Therefore, this study suggests that besides a small diameter, good graphitization (crystallization) is an important prerequisite for a good carbon nanotube emitter.


Physics, Astronomy, and Materials Science

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Applied Physics A