Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are an emerging class of nano-structured carbon materials which are currently being studied for applications which would benefit from their desirable electrical and mechanical properties. Potential benefits such as improved current density, flexure tolerance, weight savings, and even radiation tolerance have led to their implementation into numerous devices and structures, many of which are slated for use in space environments. The role of CNTs can be quite diverse, with varied CNT electronic-types and morphologies dictated by the specific application. Despite numerous CNT types and morphologies employed by these technologies, a common link between nearly all of these devices and structures is metal contact to CNTs, where the metal components often provide the link between the carbon nanotubes and the external system.
In this work, a variety of CNT-metal systems were characterized in terms of metal morphology analysis and CNT-metal electrical and mechanical interactions, in response to chemical and structural modifications. A large portion of the work additionally focuses on ion irradiation environments. A diverse number of experiments related to CNT-metal interactions will be discussed. For instance, electrochemical interactions between ion-irradiated single-wall CNTs (SWCNTs) and metal salt solutions were utilized to selectively deposit Au nanoparticles (Au-NPs) onto the SWCNTs. A direct correlation was established between defect density and Au-NP areal density, resulting in a method for rapid spatial profiling of ion-irradiation induced defects in SWCNTs. The effect of ion irradiation on the CNT-metal interface was also investigated and it was found that the contact resistance of Ag-SWCNT structures increases, while the specific contact resistance decreases. The increase in overall contact resistance was attributed to increased series resistance in the system due to damage of the bulk SWCNT films, while the decrease in specific contact resistance was attributed to Ag atoms being forward-scattered into the top 5 nm of SWCNT film, as revealed by computational simulations. Additionally, development of Ag-CNT metal matrix composite (MMC) thin films for advanced space solar cell electrodes is discussed. SWCNTs and multi-walled CNTs (MWCNTs) were utilized as reinforcement material in Ag electrodes to address problems related to micro-cracks causing electrode fracture and loss of power in solar cells. A method for creating free standing films was developed to enable mechanical property characterization of the MMCs, and it was found that SWCNTs significantly increase the toughness of Ag thin films, due to the SWCNT tensile strength and strain capabilities. CNT-MMC grid-finger structures were also fabricated by solar cell process-compatible techniques and subjected to electrical testing under mechanical stress. The results showed that CNTs are capable of spanning gaps in Ag electrodes upon fracture, both electrically and mechanically.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Carbon nanotubes; Nanostructured materials; Metals
Microsystems Engineering (Ph.D.)
Department, Program, or Center
Microsystems Engineering (KGCOE)
Brian J. Landi
Cory D. Cress
Karl D. Hirschman
Cox, Nathanael David, "Enhanced Metal Contacts to Carbon Nanotube Networks through Chemical and Physical Modification" (2016). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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