Thermal annealing of SiC nanoparticles induces SWNT nucleation: evidence for a catalyst-independent VSS mechanism

Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2011 Sep 14;13(34):15673-80. doi: 10.1039/c1cp21236b. Epub 2011 Jul 25.


Density-functional tight-binding molecular dynamics (DFTB/MD) methods were employed to demonstrate single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) nucleation resulting from thermal annealing of SiC nanoparticles. SWNT nucleation in this case is preceded by a change of the SiC structure from a crystalline one, to one in which silicon and carbon are segregated. This structural transformation ultimately resulted in the formation of extended polyyne chains on the SiC nanoparticle surface. These polyyne chains subsequently coalesced, forming an extended sp(2)-hybridized carbon cap on the SiC nanoparticle. The kinetics of this process were enhanced significantly at higher temperatures (2500 K), compared to lower temperatures (1200 K) and so directly correlated to the surface premelting behavior of the nanoparticle structure. Analysis of the SiC nanoparticle Lindemann index between 1000 and 3000 K indicated that SWNT nucleation at temperatures below 2600 K occurred in the solid, or quasi-solid, phase. Thus, the traditional vapor-liquid-solid mechanism of SWNT growth does not apply in the case of SiC nanoparticles. Instead, we propose that this example of SWNT nucleation constitutes evidence of a vapor-solid-solid process. This conclusion complements our recent observations regarding SWNT nucleation on SiO(2) nanoparticles (A. J. Page, K. R. S. Chandrakumar, S. Irle and K. Morokuma, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2011, 133, 621-628). In addition, similarities between the atomistic SWNT nucleation mechanisms on SiC and SiO(2) catalysts provide the first evidence of a catalyst-independent SWNT nucleation mechanism with respect to 'non-traditional' SWNT catalyst species.