Carbon Nanotubes: Chemical Vapor Deposition Synthesis and Application in Electrochemical Double Layer Supercapacitors

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Turano, Stephan Parker
Carter, W. Brent
Ready, W. Jud
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Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have become a popular area of materials science research due to their outstanding material properties coupled with their small size. CNTs are expected to be included in a wide variety of applications and devices in the near future. Among these devices which are nearing mass production are electrochemical double layer (ECDL) supercapacitors. The current methods to produce CNTs are numerous, with each synthesis variable resulting in changes in the physical properties of the CNT. A wide array of studies have focused on the effects of specific synthesis conditions. This research expands on earlier work done using bulk nickel catalyst, alumina supported iron catalyst, and standard chemical vapor deposition (CVD) synthesis methods. This work also investigates the effect of an applied voltage to the CVD chamber during synthesis on the physical nature of the CNTs produced. In addition, the work analyzes a novel nickel catalyst system, and the CNTs produced using this catalyst. The results of the effects of synthesis conditions on resultant CNTs are included. Additionally, CNT based ECDL supercapacitors were manufactured and tested. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis reveals that catalyst choice, catalyst thickness, synthesis temperature, and applied voltage have different results on CNT dimensions. Nanotube diameter distribution and average diameter data demonstrate the effect of each synthesis condition. Additionally, the concept of an alignment parameter is introduced in order to quantify the effect of an electric field on CNT alignment. CNT based ECDL supercapacitors testing reveals that CNTs work well as an active material when a higher purity is achieved. The molarity of the electrolyte also has an effect on the performance of CNT based ECDL supercapacitors. On the basis of this research, we conclude that CNT physical dimensions can be moderately controlled based on the choice of synthesis conditions. Also, the novel nickel catalyst system investigated in this research has potential to produce bulk quantities of CNT under specific conditions. Finally, purified CNTs are recommended as a suitable active material for ECDL supercapacitors.
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