Silicon nanowires, carbon nanotubes, and magnetic nanocrystals: synthesis, properties, and applications



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Central to the practical use of nanoscale materials is the controlled growth in technologically meaningful quantities. Many of the proposed applications of the nanomaterials potentially require inexpensive production of the building blocks. Solution-based synthetic approach offers controllability, high throughput, and scalability, which make the process attractive for the potential scale-up. Growth kinetics could be readily influenced by chemical interactions between the precursor and the solvent. In order to fully utilize its benefits, it is therefore pivotal to understand the decomposition chemistry of the precursors used in the reactions. Supercritical fluids were used as solvent in which high temperature reactions could take place. Silicon nanowires with diameters of 20~30 nm was synthesized in supercritical fluids with metal nanocrystals as seeds for the nanowire growth. To unravel the effect of silicon precursors, several silicon precursors were reacted and the resulting products were investigated. The scalability of the system is discussed based on the experimental data. The nanowires were characterized with various characterization tools, including high-resolution transmission electron microscopy and electron energy loss spectroscopy. The crystallographic signatures were analyzed through the transmission electron microscopic study, and fundamental electrical and optical properties were probed by electron energy loss spectroscopy. Carbon nanotubes were prepared by reacting carbon-containing chemicals in supercritical fluids with organometallic compounds that form metal seed particles in-situ. A batch reaction, in which the temperature control was relatively poor, yielded a mixture of multiwall nanotubes and amorphous carbon nanofilaments with a low selectivity of nanotubes in the product. When reaction parameters were translated into a continuous flow-through reaction, nanotube selectivity as well as the throughput of the total product significantly improved. Magnetic properties of various metal nanocrystals were also studied. Colloidal synthesis enables the growth of FePt and MnPt3 nanocrystals with size uniformity. The as-synthesized nanocrystals, however, had compositionally disordered soft-magnetic phases. To obtain hard magnetic layered phase, the nanocrystals must be annealed at high temperatures, which led to sintering of the inorganic cores. To prevent sintering, the nanocrystals were encapsulated with silica layer prior to annealing. Interparticle magnetic interactions were also explored using particles with varying silica thickness.