Catalyst Development

One of the most important factors in carbon nanofiber synthesis is the catalyst. Each catalyst requires unique conditions of temperature and gas composition, so there are external factors as well. To reduce the cost of catalysts and introduce new possibilities in catalyst design, mechanical alloying is our preferred method of producing catalytic alloys.

Mechanical alloying is an important technique used extensively in the development nanostructured metals (discussed here), but it is comparatively rare in catalyst production. We see this as an area of great potential since this process is capable of quickly producing unique, nonequilibrium alloys that are difficult or impossible to produce otherwise.

Our early efforts have examined soluble and insoluble alloys (Ni-Cu and Fe-Cu, respectively) and have revealed the ability to create comparable catalytic activity with as much as a 99% reduction in processing time and a 97% reduction in catalyst material cost. These preparation methods are critical to developing cost-effective solutions for advanced materials and processes.

Catalyst and Fibers

Elemental composition map of mechanically alloyed Ni-Cu catalyst showing (A) nickel and (B) copper regions. Composite image of carbon nanofibers viewed with (C) secondary electron and (D) back-scattered electron imaging to highlight catalyst particles within fibers. (C, D adapted from Atwater, et al. Carbon; 48(7) pp.1932-1938 (2010))