Conformal Atomic Layer Deposition of Alumina on Millimeter Tall, Vertically-aligned Carbon Nanotube Arrays

Atomic layer deposition (ALD) can be used to coat high aspect ratio and high surface area substrates with conformal and precisely controlled thin films. Vertically aligned arrays of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) with lengths up to 1.5 mm were conformally coated with alumina from base to tip. The nucleation and growth behaviors of Al2O3 ALD precursors on the MWCNTs were studied as a function of CNT surface chemistry. CNT surfaces were modified through a series of post-treatments including pyrolytic carbon deposition, high temperature thermal annealing, and oxygen plasma functionalization. Conformal coatings were achieved where post-treatments resulted in increased defect density as well as extent of functionalization, as characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy. Using thermogravimetric analysis it was determined that MWCNTs treated with pyrolytic carbon and plasma functionalization prior to ALD coating were more stable to thermal oxidation than pristine ALD coated samples. Functionalized and ALD coated arrays had a compressive modulus more than two times higher than a pristine array coated for the same number of cycles. Cross-sectional energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy confirmed that Al­2O3 could be uniformly deposited through the entire thickness of the vertically aligned MWCNT array by manipulating sample orientation and mounting techniques.  Following the ALD coating, the MWCNT arrays demonstrated hydrophilic wetting behavior, and also exhibited foam-like recovery following compressive strain. Read the full paper here.