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Dry Oxidation and Vacuum Annealing Treatments for Tuning the Wetting Properties of Carbon Nanotube Arrays

Published: April 15th, 2013



1Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories, California Institute of Technology

This article describes a simple method to fabricate vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays by CVD and to subsequently tune their wetting properties by exposing them to vacuum annealing or dry oxidation treatment.

In this article, we describe a simple method to reversibly tune the wetting properties of vertically aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) arrays. Here, CNT arrays are defined as densely packed multi-walled carbon nanotubes oriented perpendicular to the growth substrate as a result of a growth process by the standard thermal chemical vapor deposition (CVD) technique.1,2 These CNT arrays are then exposed to vacuum annealing treatment to make them more hydrophobic or to dry oxidation treatment to render them more hydrophilic. The hydrophobic CNT arrays can be turned hydrophilic by exposing them to dry oxidation treatment, while the hydrophilic CNT arrays can be turned hydrophobic by exposing them to vacuum annealing treatment. Using a combination of both treatments, CNT arrays can be repeatedly switched between hydrophilic and hydrophobic.2 Therefore, such combination show a very high potential in many industrial and consumer applications, including drug delivery system and high power density supercapacitors.3-5

The key to vary the wettability of CNT arrays is to control the surface concentration of oxygen adsorbates. Basically oxygen adsorbates can be introduced by exposing the CNT arrays to any oxidation treatment. Here we use dry oxidation treatments, such as oxygen plasma and UV/ozone, to functionalize the surface of CNT with oxygenated functional groups. These oxygenated functional groups allow hydrogen bond between the surface of CNT and water molecules to form, rendering the CNT hydrophilic. To turn them hydrophobic, adsorbed oxygen must be removed from the surface of CNT. Here we employ vacuum annealing treatment to induce oxygen desorption process. CNT arrays with extremely low surface concentration of oxygen adsorbates exhibit a superhydrophobic behavior.

The introduction of synthetic materials with tunable wetting properties has enabled many applications including self-cleaning surfaces and hydrodynamic drag reduction devices.6,7 Many reported studies show that to successfully tune the wetting properties of a material, one have to be able to vary its surface chemistry and topographic surface roughness.8-11 Among many other available synthetic materials, nanostructured materials have attracted most of the attention due to their inherent multi-scaled surface roughness and their surfaces can be readily functionalized by common methods. Several examples of these nanostructured materials includ....

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1. Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Array Growth

  1. Prepare a silicon wafer with at least one polished side. There is no specific requirement on the size, crystalline orientation, doping type, resistivity, and oxide layer thickness. We typically use a <100> n-type silicon wafer doped with phosphorous, with a diameter of 3 inch, a thickness of 381 μm, and a resistivity of 5-10 Ωcm. Usually this silicon wafer has a thermal oxide layer with a thickness of 300 nm.
  2. If the prepared silicon wafer does not.......

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The CVD method described above results in densely packed vertically aligned multi-walled CNT arrays with a typical diameter, number of wall, and inter-nanotube spacing of about 12 - 20 nm, 8 - 16 walls, and 40 - 100 nm respectively. The average length of the arrays can be varied from a few micrometers long (Figure 6a) to a millimeter long (Figure 6b) by changing the growth time from 5 min to 1 hr respectively. Typically the vertical alignment is good at larger length scale and some.......

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We consider UV/ozone treatment as the most convenient oxidation technique because it can be performed in air at a standard room temperature and pressure for up to several hours, depending on the length of the CNT array and the power of the UV radiation. UV radiation, generated by a high intensity mercury vapor lamp at 185 nm and 254 nm, breaks the molecular bonds on the outer wall of CNT allowing ozone, converted simultaneously from air by UV radiation, to oxidize their surface.26,27 The oxidation proces.......

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This work was supported by The Charyk Foundation and The Fletcher Jones Foundation under grant number 9900600. The authors gratefully acknowledge the Kavli Nanoscience Institute at the California Institute of Technology for use of the nanofabrication instruments, the Molecular Materials Research Center of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology for use of the XPS and contact angle goniometer, and the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences of the California Institute of Technology for use of SEM.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Material Name Company Catalogue Number Comments (optional)
Lindberg Blue M Mini-Mite tube furnace Thermo Scientific TF55030A 1" tube furnace for CNT array growth
Electronic mass flow controllers MKS PFC-50 πMFC Max flow rate of 1000 sccm
Electronic pressure controller MKS PC-90 πPC Max pressure of 1000 Torr
1" quartz tube MTI Corp. >EQ-QZTube-25GE-610 1" D x 24" L
Hydrogen gas Airgas HY UHP200 CNT array growth precursor gas, 99.999% purity
Ethylene gas Matheson G2250101 CNT array growth precursor gas, 99.999% purity
Argon gas Airgas AR UHP200 CNT array growth precursor gas, 99.999% purity
Silicon wafer El-Cat 2449 With 300 nm polished thermal oxide layer
Iron pellets Kurt J Lesker EVMFE35EXEA 99.95% purity
Aluminum oxide pellets Kurt J Lesker EVMALO-1220B 99.99% purity
E-beam evaporator CHA Industries CHA Mark 40 For buffer and catalyst layer deposition
UV/ozone cleaner BioForce Nanosciences ProCleaner Plus For oxidizing CNT array
Oxygen plasma cleaner PVA TePla M4L For oxidizing CNT array
Vacuum oven VWR 97027-664 For deoxidizing CNT array
SEM Zeiss 1550 VP For CNT array growth characterization
XPS Surface Science M-Probe For surface chemistry characterization
Contact angle goniometer ramé-hart Model 190 For wetting properties characterization

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