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Fabrication of high yield horizontally aligned single wall carbon nanotubes for molecular electronics

Imad Ibrahim

PhD thesis (Dissertation), TU Dresden, 2012

The extraordinary properties of the single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) have stimulated an enormous amount of research towards the realization of SWCNT-based products for different applications ranging form nanocomposites to nanoelectronics. Their high charge mobility, exceedingly good current-carrying capacities and ability to be either semiconducting or metallic render them ideal building blocks for nanoelectronics. For nanoelectronic applications, either individual or parallel aligned SWCNTs are advantageous. Moreover, closely packed arrays of parallel SWCNTs are required in order to sustain the relatively large currents found in high frequency devices. Two key areas still require further development before the realization of large-scale nanoelectronics. They are the reproducible control of the nanotubes spatial position/orientation and chiral management.

In terms of nanotube orientation, different techniques have been demonstrated for the fabrication of horizontally aligned SWCNTs with either post synthesis routes (e.g. dielectrophoresis and Langmuir-Blodgett approach) or direct growth (e.g. chemical vapor deposition (CVD)). The low temperature of the production process, allowing the formation of aligned nanotubes on pretty much any substrate, is the main advantage of the post synthesis routes, while the poor levels of reproducibility and spatial control, and the limited quality of the aligned tubes due to the inherently required process steps are limitations. The simplicity, up-scalability, along with the reproducible growth of clean high quality SWCNTs with well-controlled spatial, orientation and length, make CVD the most promising for producing dense horizontally well-aligned SWCNTs. These CVD techniques suffer some drawbacks, namely, that because they are synthesized using catalyst particles (metals or non-metals) the catalyst material can contaminate the tubes and affect their intrinsic properties. Thus, the catalyst-free synthesis of aligned SWNT is very desirable.

This thesis comprises detailed and systematic experimental investigations in to the fabrication of horizontally aligned SWCNTs using both post growth (Dielectrophoresis) and direct growth (CVD) methods. Both catalyst-assisted and catalyst-free SWCNTs are synthesized by CVD. While metallic nanoparticles nucleate and grow SWCNTs, opened and activated fullerene structures are used for all carbon catalyst-free growth of single wall and double wall carbon nanotubes. The systematic studies allow for a detailed understanding of the growth mechanisms of catalyst and catalyst-free grown SWCNTs to be elucidated. The data significantly advances our understanding of horizontally aligned carbon nanotubes by both post synthesis alignment as well as directly as-synthesized routes. Indeed, the knowledge enables such tubes to be grown in high yield and with a high degree of special control. It is shown, for the first time, how one can grow horizontally aligned carbon nanotubes in crossbar configurations in a single step and with bespoke crossing angles.

In addition, the transport properties of the aligned tubes at room temperature are also investigated through the fabrication of devices based on these tubes.

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