Carbon precursor analysis for catalytic growth of carbon nanotube in flame synthesis based on semi-empirical approach


Although flame synthesis promises economic benefit and rapid synthesis of carbon nanotube (CNT), the lack of control and understanding of the effects of flame parameters (e.g., temperature and precursor composition) impose some challenges in modelling and identifying CNT growth region for obtaining better throughput. The present study presents an investigation on the types of carbon precursor that affect CNT growth region on nickel catalyst particles in an ethylene inverse diffusion flame. An established CNT growth rate model that describes physical growth of CNT is utilised to predict CNT length and growth region using empirical inputs of flame temperature and species composition from the literature. Two variations of the model are employed to determine the dominant precursor for CNT growth which are the constant adsorption activation energy (CAAE) model and the varying adsorption activation energy (VAAE) model. The carbon precursors investigated include ethylene, acetylene, and carbon monoxide as base precursors and all possible combinations of the base precursors. In the CAAE model, the activation energy for adsorption of carbon precursor species on catalyst surface \(E_{\mathrm{a},1}\) is held constant whereas in the VAAE model, \(E_{\mathrm{a},1}\) is varied based on the investigated precursor. The sensitivity of the growth rate model is demonstrated by comparing the shifting of predicted growth regions between the CAAE model and the VAAE model where the CAAE model serves as a control case. Midpoint-based and threshold-based techniques are employed within each model to quantify the predicted CNT growth region. Growth region prediction based on the midpoint-VAAE approach demonstrates the importance of acetylene and carbon monoxide to some extent towards CNT growth. Ultimately, the threshold-VAAE model shows that the dominant precursor for CNT growth is the mixture of acetylene and carbon monoxide. A simplified reaction mechanism is proposed to describe the surface chemistry for precursor reactions with nickel catalyst where decomposition of the ethylene fuel source into acetylene and carbon monoxide is accounted for by chemisorption.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. 1.

    Hamzah N, Mohd Yasin MF, Mohd Yusop MZ, Saat A, Mohd Subha NA (2019) Identification of CNT growth region and optimum time for catalyst oxidation: experimental and modelling studies of flame synthesis. Diam Relat Mater 99:107500

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Ismail E, Fauzi FB, Mohamed MA, Mohd Yasin MF, Mohd Abid MAA, Yaacob II, Md Din MF, Ani MH (2019) Kinetic studies of few-layer graphene grown by flame deposition from the perspective of gas composition and temperature. RSC Adv 9:21000

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Gore JP, Sane A (2011) Carbon nanotubes-synthesis, characterization. Applications 8:121–146

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Lee SE, Cho S, Lee YS (2014) Mechanical and thermal properties of MWCNT-reinforced epoxy nanocomposites by vacuum assisted resin transfer molding. Carbon Lett 15(1):32

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Gupta N, Gupta SM, Sharma S (2019) Carbon nanotubes: synthesis, properties and engineering applications. Carbon Lett 136:1–29

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Zainal MT, Mohd Yasin MF, Wahid MA (2016) Optimizing flame synthesis of carbon nanotubes: experimental and modelling perspectives. Jurnal Teknologi 78(8–4):133

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Chong CT, Tan WH, Lee SL, Chong WWF, Lam SS, Valera-Medina A (2017) Morphology and growth of carbon nanotubes catalytically synthesised by premixed hydrocarbon-rich flames. Mater Chem Phys 197:246

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Suzuki S, Mori S (2017) Flame synthesis of carbon nanotube through a diesel engine using normal dodecane/ethanol mixing fuel as a feedstock. J Chem Eng Jpn 50(3):178

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Suzuki S, Mori S (2018) Synthesis of carbon nanotubes from biofuel as a carbon source through a diesel engine. Diam Relat Mater 82:79

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Suzuki S, Mori S (2018) Considerations on the key precursor for the growth of carbon nanotubes using a diesel engine as a reactor. Chem Eng Sci 186:62

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Vander Wal RL (2002) Flame synthesis of Ni-catalyzed nanofibers. Carbon 40(12):2101

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Arana CP, Puri IK, Sen S (2005) Catalyst influence on the flame synthesis of aligned carbon nanotubes and nanofibers. Proc Combust Inst 30(2):2553

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Hamzah N, Mohd Yasin MF, Mohd Yusop MZ, Saat A, Mohd Subha NA (2017) Rapid production of carbon nanotubes: a review on advancement in growth control and morphology manipulations of flame synthesis. J Mater Chem A 5(48):25144

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Mittal G, Dhand V, Rhee KY, Kim HJ, Jung DH (2015) Carbon nanotubes synthesis using diffusion and premixed flame methods: a review. Carbon Lett 16(1):1

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Padilla O, Gallego J, Santamaría A (2018) Using benzene as growth precursor for the carbon nanostructure synthesis in an inverse diffusion flame reactor. Diam Relat Mater 86:128

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Hou SS, Huang WC, Lin TH (2012) Flame synthesis of carbon nanostructures using mixed fuel in oxygen-enriched environment. J Nanopart Res 14(11):1243

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Xu F, Liu X, Stephen DT (2006) Synthesis of carbon nanotubes on metal alloy substrates with voltage bias in methane inverse diffusion flames. Carbon 44(3):570

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Hall B, Zhuo C, Levendis YA, Richter H (2011) Influence of the fuel structure on the flame synthesis of carbon nanomaterials. Carbon 49(11):3412

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Puretzky AA, Geohegan DB, Jesse S, Ivanov IN, Eres G (2005) In situ measurements and modeling of carbon nanotube array growth kinetics during chemical vapor deposition. Appl Phys A 81(2):223

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Naha S, Puri IK (2008) A model for catalytic growth of carbon nanotubes. J Phys D Appl Phys 41(6):065304

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Saeidi M, Vaezzadeh M (2011) Theoretical investigation of the growth rate of carbon nanotubes in chemical vapor deposition. Iran J Sci Technol (Sciences) 35(1):29

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Zahed B, Sheikholeslami TF, Behzadmehr A, Atashi H (2013) Numerical study of furnace temperature and inlet hydrocarbon concentration effect on carbon nanotube growth rate. Int J Bio-Inorg Hybd Nanomater 2(1):329

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Zahed B, Sheikholeslami TF, Behzadmehr A, Atashi H (2014) Numerical study of operating pressure effect on carbon nanotube growth rate and length uniformity. Transp Phenom Nano Micro Scales 2(1):78

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Shahivandi H, Vaezzadeh M, Saeidi M (2017) Theoretical study of effective parameters in catalytic growth of carbon nanotubes. Phys Status Solidi (a) 214(11):1700101

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Naha S, Sen S, De AK, Puri IK (2007) A detailed model for the flame synthesis of carbon nanotubes and nanofibers. Proc Combust Inst 31(2):1821

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Heng EW, Zainal MT, Mohd Yasin MF, Hamzah N (2019) Effects of flame structure and flame strain on the growth region of carbon nanotubes in counter-flow diffusion flame. CFD Lett 11:72

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Hamzah N, Mohd Yasin MF, Zainal MT, Rosli MAF (2019) Identification of CNT growth region and optimum time for catalyst oxidation: experimental and modelling studies of flame synthesis. Evergr Jt J Novel Carbon Resour Sci Green Asia Strategy 6:85

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Zainal MT, Mohd Yasin MF, Abdul Wahid M, Mohd Sies M (2019) A flame structure approach for controlling carbon nanotube growth in flame synthesis. Combust Sci Technol.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Liu H, Dandy DS (1996) Nucleation kinetics of diamond on carbide-forming substrates during chemical vapor deposition I. Transient nucleation stage. J Electrochem Soc 143(3):1104

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Zainal MT, Mohd Yasin MF, Abdul Wahid M (2016) Investigation of the coupled effects of temperature and partial pressure on catalytic growth of carbon nanotubes using a modified growth rate model. Mater Res Express 3(10):105040

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Wen JZ, Celnik M, Richter H, Treska M, Vander Sande JB, Kraft M (2008) Modelling study of single walled carbon nanotube formation in a premixed flame. J Mater Chem 18(13):1582

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Unrau C, Katta V, Axelbaum R (2010) Characterization of diffusion flames for synthesis of single-walled carbon nanotubes. Combust Flame 157(9):1643

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Zainal MT, Mohd Yasin MF, Ira Irawan MA, Rosli MAF, Hamzah N, Mohd Yusop MZ (2018) Investigation on the deactivation of cobalt and iron catalysts in catalytic growth of carbon nanotube using a growth rate model. J Adv Res Mater Sci 51(1):11

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Rochaya D (2007) Numerical simulation of spray combustion using bio-mass derived liquid fuels. Ph.D. thesis, Cranfield University

  35. 35.

    Vattuone L, Yeo Y, Kose R, King D (2000) Energetics and kinetics of the interaction of acetylene and ethylene with Pd \(\{100\}\) and Ni \(\{100\}\). Surf Sci 447(1–3):1

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Madden H, Küppers J, Ertl G (1973) Interaction of carbon monoxide with (110) nickel surfaces. J Chem Phys 58(8):3401

    CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by Ministry of Education (MOE) through Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS/1/2019/TK05/UTM/02/8) with cost centre numbers R.J130000.7851.5F182 and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) through UTM Fundamental Research (UTMFR: PY/2019/01657) grant with cost centre number Q.J130000.2551.21H10.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mohd Fairus Mohd Yasin.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zainal, M.T., Mohd Yasin, M.F., Wan Ali, W.F.F. et al. Carbon precursor analysis for catalytic growth of carbon nanotube in flame synthesis based on semi-empirical approach. Carbon Lett. 30, 569–579 (2020).

Download citation


  • Carbon nanotube (CNT)
  • Modelling
  • Catalytic growth
  • Flame synthesis
  • Carbon precursor