A study of carbon based materials for energy applications

  • Qammar Sultan Goher

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Carbon based materials such as CNTs and graphene have been widely studied over the last few years. The outstanding electrical and mechanical properties of these materials attracted researchers to find ways to grow and use them in nano-devices. Among the different techniques, PECVD is a relatively simple and low temperature process. It facilitates the growth of CNTs and graphene on particular sites of the substrate. The objective of this research project was to study the growth of CNTs and graphene using PECVD system and to employ them in renewable energy devices. Excimer laser processed materials were also the focus for flexible material for fuel cells and other applications to show the way to a one step manufacturing process that lends itself to large area and low cost processing using standard tools.In the growth of CNTs, the roll of a buffer layer and catalyst materials were studied in depth. Different metals were tested for best results in optimising nanotube growth for the selected applications. The role of the buffer layer in the formation of nanoparticles and their surface adhesion was studied. Different materials were used as a catalyst and analysed for best performance in the PECVD system. Growth parameters such as temperature, pressure, gas flow rate and plasma power were studied during the growth of CNTs in the PECVD system. The growth of graphene has been conducted in two ways: firstly, by the traditional mechanical exfoliation technique (with the help of Manchester University) and second by PECVD techniques.Polymer materials are promising flexible substrates for electronic and energy devices. An excimer laser was used to transform thin metallic films into nanoparticles which could play the role of the catalyst in proton exchange membrane fuel cells. In this study experiments have been conducted into a single step process to convert the poly ethylene naphthalate (PEN) surface to a robust mesoporous carbon material that conducts electrons, whilst depositing the catalyst. Such a technique has been developed for the first time in this work. Laser modification here produced a conical carbon structure and dense arrays of well defined catalysts.A prototype fuel cell was designed and crafted to employ the laser processed PEN as a proton exchange membrane. Some experiments were conducted regarding the transport of protons through laser processed PEN and the conventionally used fuel cell electrolyte, Nafion. It has been observed that the hydrophilic property of Nafion allowed proton transport across this material. It was also observed that PEN is not a good membrane for protonic transport. This material does not have free sites for vehicle transport. The catalytic activity of laser ablated Ni nanoparticles on PEN substrate was studied in temperature programme reaction (TPR) and it was observed that the metallic nanoparticles had some activity at higher temperature. Both Ni and Pt nanoparticles were tested as catalysts on the standard Nafion electrolyte. It was observed that Pt is active for the hydrogen combustion reaction and Ni has less activity for this purpose.It was not expected in this work that efficient hydrogen transport through the polymer would occur, but that future modification of the internal chemistry of PEN can be developed.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMervyn Rose (Supervisor)


    • Carbon nanotubes and graphene

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