An alternative method of low-temperature plasma functionalization of carbon nanotubes provides for the simultaneous attachment of molecular groups of multiple (typically two or three) different species or different mixtures of species to carbon nanotubes at different locations within the same apparatus. This method is based on similar principles, and involves the use of mostly the same basic apparatus, as those of the methods described in “Low-Temperature Plasma Functionalization of Carbon Nanotubes” (ARC-14661-1), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 28, No. 5 (May 2004), page 45.

Nanotubes at Different Distances from the precursor chamber are exposed to different plasma compositions and, hence, become differently functionalized.
The figure schematically depicts the basic apparatus used in the aforementioned method, with emphasis on features that distinguish the present alternative method from the other. In this method, one exploits the fact that the composition of the deposition plasma changes as the plasma flows from its source in the precursor chamber toward the nanotubes in the target chamber. As a result, carbon nanotubes mounted in the target chamber at different flow distances (d1, d2, d3 . . .) from the precursor chamber become functionalized with different species or different mixtures of species.

In one series of experiments to demonstrate this method, N2 was used as the precursor gas. After the functionalization process, the carbon nanotubes from three different positions in the target chamber were examined by Fourier-

transform infrared spectroscopy to identify the molecular groups that had become attached. On carbon nanotubes from d1 = 1 cm, the attached molecular groups were found to be predominantly C=N and C≡N. On carbon nanotubes from d2 = 2.5 cm, the attached molecular groups were found to be predominantly C—(NH)2 and/or C=NH2. (The H2 was believed to originate as residual hydrogen present in the nanotubes.) On carbon nanotubes from d3 = 7 cm no functionalization could be detected — perhaps, it was conjectured, because this distance is downstream of the plasma source, all of the free ions and free radicals of the plasma had recombined into molecules.

This work was done by Meyya Meyyappan of Ames Research Center and Bishun Khare of SETI Institute.

This invention is owned by NASA and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to the Ames Technology Partnerships Division at (650) 604-2954. Refer to ARC-14661-3.