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Production and Exploration of Carbon Nanotubes


Development of a Technology for Large Scale Production of Carbon Nanotubes and Exploration of Use of This Material in Power Engineering

Tech Area / Field

  • MAT-SYN/Materials Synthesis and Processing/Materials
  • MAT-ALL/High Performance Metals and Alloys/Materials

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Malakhov Yu I

Leading Institute
Kurchatov Research Center, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • VNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov\nTRINITI, Russia, Moscow reg., Troitsk


  • New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA, Newark\nKansai University, Japan, Osaka\nInternational Center for Materials Research, Japan, Kanagawa\nAdvanced Laser Technologies and Innovative Research Center (ALTAIR Center, LLC), USA, MA, Shrewsbury\nMax-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik, Germany, Heidelberg

Project summary

Discovery of fullerenes in 1985 [1] awarded with the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1996 is one of the most considerable achievements of the science of last century. Soon after developing the technology for fullerenes production it was found out that thermal sputtering of graphite anode in electrical arc results not only in the formation of fullerenes but also in the formation of elongated structures which are one-layer or multi-layer graphite tubes. These structures have been called as "nanotubes". Carbon nanotubes (CNT) combine the properties of both molecules and the solid body and can be considered as an intermediate state of the matter. This feature draws particular attention of the researchers studying the fundamental behavior of such an exotic object under various conditions. These features are of significant scientific interest and can be considered as the basis for an efficient use of nanotubes in different science and technology fields. The directions for possible use of carbon nanotubes are extremely various and attractive. CNT can operate as efficient electron emitters with extraordinary characteristics, can be use as a basic material for reversible absorption of gas substances, miniature electron device with adjustable characteristics, extra-thin filaments with high mechanical characteristics (strength and flexibility) [2]. Within several recent years there have been published reports about the creation of CNT-based new efficient devices, which are widely used in applications. In 2000 there was a report about the fabrication of a portable electron monitor of 13 inches in diagonal, with a CNT film-based electron source [3]. However, the wide use of CNT based devices is limited by rather high production cost of CNT due to the peculiar features of the present CNT production technology.

According to the mentioned above the objective of the project is development and modification of methods for large-scale production of carbon nanotubes to be further used in applications including the following: enhancing mechanical characteristics of metals, alloys and construction materials; in devices for accumulation and storage of hydrogen; as the basis for electron field emitters and other energy conversion devices.

In dependence on the specific application of the produced CNT two basic methods for CNT fabrication are proposed to develop and modify. The first method is based on thermal decomposition of graphite in electric-arc plasma under the presence of a metal catalyst. It is planned the comparative research of different methods for graphite injection into the hot region of electric discharge plasma (graphite electrodes, plasma-chemical sputtering) to provide maximal efficiency and yield of the process in relation to CNT. At present the authors of the project have an electric discharge facility providing CNT production up to 10 g/day. 50-fold increase in the productivity is planned in frame of the project. This is supposed to be achieved due to semi-automated or fully automated electric discharge set-ups including automatic control of current, voltage and discharge gap as well as automated change of electrodes. The second method for CNT production is based on the use of chemical vapor deposition (CVD) technique. Besides of that, a new method for CNT production will be performed, where fine disperse amorphous graphite instead of solid graphite electrodes will be used as a source of graphite, and a continuous operation plasma generator will be used as a reaction chamber. This will make it possible to lower essentially the specific electrical energy consumption, the cost of initial materials, as well as the waste during CNT production.

Therefore, the participants of the project propose a complex solution of the following tasks within the CNT production methods:

– modification of the existing method for thermal decomposition of graphite in electrical arc plasma under the presence of metal catalyst;

– development of the method for chemical vapor deposition (CVD) with using the new types catalysts and carbon containing compounds;
– creation of the new (plasma-chemical) method for CNT production.

It is proposed to study the possibility of using CNT produced according to the methods described above for the following purposes:

– modification of properties of metals and alloys with the CNT layer deposited upon the surface or, probably, with the layer of some other nanostructures during the process of pulsed exposure by high current beam of relativistic electrons to produce materials with enhanced properties (to increase technological characteristics of these materials);

– developing and manufacturing field electron emitters based on CNT;
– study of hydrogen storage inside CNT-based materials.

The participants of the project from Russian Research Center "Kurchatov Institute" are highly experienced in the field of manufacturing and studying the new carbon materials some of which are fullerenes and carbon nanotubes. They have published more than 50 papers in this field, presented more than 10 reports at international conferences [4, 5]. As the basis for the large-scale CNT production will be used both basic research performed and the pilot facilities manufactured. The samples of single-layer and multi-layer CNT were produced and studied, diameter distribution function for CNT was determined, the behavior of CNT during heating up to 900 K was studied. A method for purifying a CNT containing material from amorphous carbon particles and other admixtures has been developed. The method includes both thermal treatment and acid treatment.

The participants of the project from SRC TRINITI are highly experienced in the field of chemical vapor deposition of diamond films. The methods developed for this task were modified for nanotube fabrication. Researchers from TRINITI have created field electron emitters based on nanodiamond materials in frame of the ISTC project #1187. These researchers have developed the method for electrophoretic deposition of diamond coatings upon plane, filament-like and tipped substrates and having created a setup for studying emission characteristics of diamond films will be used for fabrication of field emitters based on nanotubes. The results of the primary experiments performed recently [6] show high emission characteristics of CNT produced by electrical-arc method.

The participants of the project from RFNC-VNIIEF have solved the problem for surface modification of materials exposed to high-current relativistic electron beams within ISTC project #975. These researchers are the experts in the field of dynamical destruction, the authors of a discovery in this field, the authors of monograph [7], have published articles in Russian leading scientific journals and contributed reports in international conferences [8]. They are also highly experienced in the field of studying the structure and properties of this compound type as well as of other types of compounds [9, 10] and have relevant experimental equipment. All this can constitute the basis for successful fulfillment of the project.

Fulfillment of the project is expected to result in the tens-fold lowering of the production cost of CNT in comparison with that of existing methods. It is planned to study the possibility and the conditions for filling the CNT with gaseous substances, with hydrogen, in particular. It is planned to determine CNT production regimes corresponding to optimal emission characteristics. It is planned to determine optimal technological characteristics for CNT production methods in view of electrochemical properties. The results of studying the materials modified with CNT can be widely used in laboratory instrument engineering and in high-energy industrial setups.

The participation of collaborators is expected during the stage of joint research, including the discussion of the results obtained and studying the practical use of the fabricated compounds. Performance of the project will make it possible to redirect the efforts of scientists and engineers in the field of weapon development and fabrication to problems related to the study of new materials.


1. Kroto H.W. et al. C60: Buckminsterfullerene // Nature, 1985, V.318, P. 162.

2. Eletskii A.V., Carbon nanotubes // Uspekhi fizicheskih nauk (in Russian), 1997, V.167, N9, P.945.
3. Choi W.B. et al. XIV Int. Winterschool “Electronic Properties of Novel Materials”. Kirchberg. Austria. March 2000.
4. Bezmelnitsyn V.N., Eletskii A.V., Taylor R., Schepetov N.G “Isolation and Characterization of C70O”. J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Transactions 2(2) 683 (1997).
5. Eletskii A. V. «Endo-adral structures» // Uspekhi fizicheskih nauk (in Russian), 2000. V.170. N2. P.113.
6. Bezmelnitsyn V.N., Eletskii A.V., Pal A.F., Pernbaum A.G., Pichugin V.V., Suetin N.V. “Emission Properties of Single Walled Nanotubes, produced in an electrical arc with Ni/Cr Catalyst” 3rd Euro Field Emission Workshop. November 2001. Alicante. Spain.
7. Uchaev A.Ya., Bonyushkin Ye.K., Zavada N.I., Novikov S.A. "Mechanism of changes in a solid lattice under its dynamic fracture". Diploma for scientific discovery № 153 of 19.10.2000; Bonyushkin Ye.K., Zavada N.I., Novikov S.A., Uchaev A.Ya. Kinetics of dynamic fracture of metals under pulsed volumetric heating conditions. Scientific edition. Sarov. 1998. 275pp.
8. A.I.Pavlovsky, Ye.K.Bonyushkin, A.Ya.Uchaev, S.A.Novikov, V.A.Tsukerman, N.I.Zavada, I.R.Trunin "Peculiarities of temperature and time regularities of dynamic fracture of some metals under fast volumetric heating conditions".// DAN. 1991. v.317. N6, p.1376; A.Ya. Uchaev, N.I. Zavada, Ye.V. Kosheleva, S.A. Novikov, L.A. Platonova, N.I. Selchenkova, N.A.Yukina “Universal properties of metals in the dynamic fracture phenomenon // International conference VI Zababakhins scientific readings 24-28 September, 2001. Abstracts. pp. 147-152.
9. Zhogova K.B. et al. Thermodynamics of allotropic modification of carbon: synthetic diamond, graphite, fullerene C60 and carbine // Thermochim. Acta. 1997. V.299. P. 127; Thermodynamic characteristics of physical transitions in fullerenes C60 and C70 // Mol. Mat. 1998. V.11. P. 27; Thermodynamic properties of 1D and 2D polymerized fullerite C60 between 0 and 340 K at standard pressure // Thermochim. Acta. 2000. V.364. P. 23.
10. E.F.Medvedev, V.M.Izgorodin, N.A.Lisovenko, N.L.Zolotukhina. pH-Methods Used of Glass – Forming Charge Water Synthesis Investigate//Fourth International Conference on materials chemistry MS4 College University of Dublin Republic.- Ireland.-13-16 Juli.- 1999.- p.B 2.5. Shadrin D.N., Zavyalov N.V., Gridasov A.P., Zolotukhina N.L. et al. ХII-th International Meeting on Radiation Processing Avignon FRANCE, 2001.


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