Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Chemical Engineering

Committee Chair

Sunkara, Mahendra K.

Author's Keywords

Nucleation; Crystalline; Carbon; Nanoscale


Carbon cycle (Biogeochemistry)--Research; Nucleation


Understanding the nucleation and early stage growth of crystals from the vapor phase is important for realizing large-area single-crystal quality films, controlled synthesis of nanocrystals, and the possible discovery of new phases of materials. Carbon provides the most interesting system because all its known crystalline phases (diamond, graphite and carbon nanotubes) are technologically important materials. Hence, this dissertation is focused on studying the nucleation and growth of carbon phases synthesized from the vapor phase. Nucleation experiments were performed in a microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition (CVD) reactor, and the resulting carbon nanocrystals were analyzed primarily using electron nanodiffraction and Raman spectroscopy. These studies led to the discovery of two new crystalline phases of sp3 carbon other than diamond: face-centered and body-centered cubic carbon. Nanodiffraction results revealed possible hydrogen substitution into diamond-cubic lattices, indicating that these new phases probably act as intermediates in diamond nucleation. Nucleation experiments also led to the discovery of two new morphologies for sp2 carbon: nanocrystals of graphite and tapered, hollow 1-D structures termed here as "carbon nanopipettes." A Kinetic Monte Carlo (KMC) algorithm was developed to simulate the growth of individual diamond crystals from the vapor phase, starting with small clusters of carbon atoms (or seeds). Specifically, KMC simulations were used to distinguish the kinetic rules that give rise to a star-shaped decahedral morphology compared to decahedral crystals. KMC simulations revealed that slow adsorption on the {111} step-propagation sites compared to kink sites leads to star-decahedral crystals, and higher adsorption leads to decahedral crystals. Since the surfaces of the nanocrystals of graphite and nanopipettes were expected to be composed primarily of edge-plane sites, the electrochemical behavior of both these materials were investigated with compounds requiring chemisorption, specifically biologically important species. Both these materials exhibited a stable and reversible voltammetric behavior for dopamine (a neurotransmitter) similar to that of graphite edge planes. Furthermore, a simple bottom-up concept utilizing the tapered morphology of the nanopipettes was developed to assemble a nanoarray sensor for fast cyclic voltammetry. In summary, the main outcomes of this dissertation include: the discovery of new crystalline carbon phases, understanding kinetic faceting of multiply twinned diamond crystals and tapered morphologies of carbon nanotubes, and development of new electrode materials based on sp2 carbon nanocrystals for sensing biologically important analytes.