, Volume 4, Issue 8, pp 767-779
Date: 19 Apr 2011

In Situ TEM observation of the gasification and growth of carbon nanotubes using iron catalysts

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Abstract

We report the in situ transmission electron microscope (TEM) observation of the catalytic gasification and growth of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). It was found that iron catalysts can consume the CNTs when pumping out the precursor gas, acetylene, at the growth temperature, and reinitiate the growth when acetylene is re-introduced. The switching between gasification and growth of CNTs can be repeated many times with the same catalyst. To understand the phenomenon, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) coupled with mass spectroscopy was used to study the mechanism involved. It was shown that the residual water molecules in the growth chamber of the TEM react with and remove carbon atoms of CNTs as carbon monoxide vapor under the action of the catalyst, when the precursor gas is pumped out. This result contributes to a better understanding of the water-assisted and oxygen-assisted synthesis of CNT arrays, and provides useful clues on how to extend the lifetime and improve the activity of the catalysts.