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Publication numberUS20100224129 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/713,146
Publication dateSep 9, 2010
Filing dateFeb 25, 2010
Priority dateMar 3, 2009
Also published asCA2751732A1, CN102341234A, EP2403714A1, EP2403714A4, EP2403714B1, EP2789579A1, US20100227134, US20140154412, WO2010101784A1
Publication number12713146, 713146, US 2010/0224129 A1, US 2010/224129 A1, US 20100224129 A1, US 20100224129A1, US 2010224129 A1, US 2010224129A1, US-A1-20100224129, US-A1-2010224129, US2010/0224129A1, US2010/224129A1, US20100224129 A1, US20100224129A1, US2010224129 A1, US2010224129A1
InventorsHarry C. Malecki, Mark R. Alberding, Brandon K. Malet, Tushar K. Shah
Original AssigneeLockheed Martin Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System and method for surface treatment and barrier coating of fibers for in situ cnt growth
US 20100224129 A1
Abstract
A system for synthesizing carbon nanotubes (CNT) on a fiber material includes a surface treatment system adapted to modify the surface of the fiber material to receive a barrier coating upon which carbon nanotubes are to be grown, a barrier coating application system downstream of the surface treatment system adapted to apply the barrier coating to the treated fiber material surface, and a barrier coating curing system downstream of the barrier coating application system for partially curing the applied barrier coating to enhance reception of CNT growth catalyst nanoparticles.
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Claims(8)
1. A system for synthesizing carbon nanotubes (CNT) on a fiber material comprising:
a surface treatment system adapted to modify the surface of the fiber material to receive a barrier coating upon which carbon nanotubes are to be grown;
a barrier coating application system downstream of the surface treatment system adapted to apply the barrier coating to the treated fiber material surface; and
a barrier coating curing system downstream of the barrier coating application system for partially curing the applied barrier coating to enhance reception of CNT growth catalyst nanoparticles.
2. The system of claim 1, further comprising a catalyst application system for depositing CNT growth catalyst nanoparticles.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein said CNT growth catalyst nanoparticles comprises iron.
4. The system of claim 2, wherein the catalyst application system and barrier coating application system are configured for simultaneous deposition of catalyst nanoparticles and barrier coating.
5. The system of claim 2, wherein the catalyst application system is upstream of the barrier coating system.
6. The system of claim 2, wherein the catalyst application system is downstream of the barrier coating system.
7. The system of claim 2, further comprising a CNT growth system comprising a CNT growth chamber equipped with a carbon feedstock supply for chemical vapor deposition (CVD)- or plasma-enhanced CVD-growth of carbon nanotubes.
8. The system of claim 7 configured for the continuous synthesis of carbon nanotubes on the fiber material, wherein the fiber material is provided in spoolable lengths on a spool or mandrel from a payout system upstream of the surface treatment system and wherein the fiber material is re-wound downstream of the CNT growth system.
Description
STATEMENT OF RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present invention claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) to provisional applications 61/157,096 filed Mar. 3, 2009, and 61/182,153 filed May 29, 2009, each of which is incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to carbon nanotube (CNT) growth, more specifically to CNT growth on fiber substrates.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In a fiber-based composite, fibers act as a reinforcing agent, while a matrix material localizes the fibers and, in some cases, controls their orientation. The matrix material also serves as a load-transfer medium between fibers within the composite. Due to their exceptional mechanical properties, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been used to further reinforce fiber composite materials. However, incorporation and alignment of CNTs on fibers and/or in composites has been problematic. Current methods of growing carbon nanotubes on fibers result in entangled and non-aligned carbon nanotubes with low weight percentage/concentration of carbon nanotubes. Moreover, some fiber-based substrates are sensitive to the temperatures at which CNTs are grown. This temperature sensitivity can manifest as an inherent instability of the fiber material at CNT growth temperatures. Temperature sensitivity in the CNT growth process can also be the result of CNT nanoparticle catalyst sintering due to nanoparticle mobility on the fiber surface. Improved methods for in situ growth of carbon nanotubes on different fiber-based substrates would be useful in producing greater strength composite materials as well as in other mechanical, thermal, and electrical applications. The present invention satisfies this need and provides related advantages as well.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In some aspects, embodiments disclosed herein relate to a system for synthesizing carbon nanotubes (CNT) on a fiber material that includes a surface treatment system adapted to modify the surface of the fiber material to receive a barrier coating upon which carbon nanotubes are to be grown, a barrier coating application system downstream of the surface treatment system adapted to apply the barrier coating to the treated fiber material surface, and a barrier coating curing system downstream of the barrier coating application system for partially curing the applied barrier coating to enhance reception of CNT growth catalyst nanoparticles.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a schematic diagram of a system for preparing a substrate for in situ growth of carbon nanotubes, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows a schematic diagram of a system for preparing a fiber tow for in situ growth of carbon nanotubes, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 shows a process flow for treating a fiber surface to promote adhesion with a barrier coating and for applying a barrier coating and catalyst particles, according to an aspect of the invention.

FIG. 4 shows a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a cold plasma treatment system.

FIG. 5 shows a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a wet surface treatment system.

FIG. 6 shows a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a spray barrier coating application system.

FIG. 7 shows a schematic diagram of a system for preparing a fiber tow for in situ growth of carbon nanotubes, according to another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8 shows a process flow for treating a fiber surface to promote adhesion with a barrier coating and for applying catalyst particles and a barrier coating, according to another aspect of the invention.

FIG. 9 shows a cross-sectional view of a substrate treated by the system of FIG. 7, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 10 shows a cross-sectional view of a substrate treated by the system of FIG. 2, according to another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 11 shows nanoparticles embedded in a barrier coating disposed conformally over a substrate.

FIG. 12 shows nanoparticles embedded in a barrier coating and in surface contact with a substrate.

FIG. 13 shows exemplary growth of carbon nanotubes on the embedded nanoparticles shown in FIG. 11.

FIG. 14 shows a system for producing a high temperature ceramic fiber composite with enhanced signature control characteristics.

FIG. 15 shows a system for producing CNTs on carbon fiber.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention is directed, in part, to methods for the growth of carbon nanotubes on fiber materials, including fiber materials that might otherwise be incompatible with the harsh conditions associated with CNT growth, such as elevated temperatures. The methods of the invention utilize a barrier coating to reduce or prevent nanoparticle sintering and/or to protect temperature sensitive fiber materials from the elevated temperatures associated with CNT growth. The methods of the present invention produce a CNT-infused fiber material that can be incorporated in composite manufacturing to provide composite products with carbon nanotubes at weight percentages exceeding those achieved using loose CNTs, CNTs on scaffolds, including other CNT-infused fibers which exhibit lower CNT densities and/or lack control over CNT orientation. Thus, methods of the present invention provide conditions for growth of carbon nanotubes aligned substantially perpendicularly to the axis of the fiber.

The methods of the present invention also prevent poisoning of the CNT nanoparticle catalysts. At high growth temperatures catalyst nanoparticles can react with surfaces of certain fiber material compositions. For example, a fiber material made from carbon or an organic composition can poison catalyst nanoparticles reducing CNT growth. Without being bound by theory, it has been indicated that such substrate-nanoparticle interaction results in overfeeding of the catalyst nanoparticle with carbon radicals. Morover, diffusion of the surface carbon from a carbon or an organic fiber into the catalyst nanoparticles prior to carbon nanotube nucleation can inhibit CNT growth. In some embodiments, methods employed herein prevent or reduce the interaction of the catalyst nanoparticles with the surface of the fiber material, thereby allowing carbon nanotube growth on the fiber material with increased yield, as well as enhanced alignment of carbon nanotubes on the fiber.

Methods of the present invention also reduce the sintering of nanoparticles on the surface of the fiber material. When heating a CNT nanoparticle catalyst-laden fiber material the catalyst nanoparticles can diffuse on the fiber material surface. Depending on the exact fiber composition, nanoparticle surface mobility can lead to undesirable amounts of nanoparticle sintering leading to reduced CNT growth. This nanoparticle to nanoparticle interaction is reduced by employing the barrier coatings of the present invention.

In some embodiments, the barrier coating employed in methods of the present invention is applied to the fibers in a liquid form and is subsequently cured. The CNT nanoparticle catalysts can be disposed on the fiber substantially simultaneously with the barrier coating, including having the catalyst mixed in with the barrier coating liquid form. In some embodiments, the catalyst can be applied to the fiber after the barrier coating is applied. In such embodiments, the barrier coating can be optionally partially cured prior to CNT nanoparticle catalyst deposition.

By applying the barrier coating in liquid form, the coating thickness can be readily controlled and the nanoparticles can pack densely without any templating effect, as explained further below. Once the barrier coating and nanoparticles catalysts have been applied to the fiber material, the barrier coating can be fully cured “locking” the nanoparticles in place. The catalyst-laden fiber material is ready for carbon nanotube synthesis at this point. This configuration of fiber material, barrier coating, and CNT nanoparticle catalyst provides one or more of the following features: 1) reduction or prevention of nanoparticle sintering; 2) protection of the fiber material by the thermally insulating barrier coating; 3) reduction or prevention of nanoparticle-substrate interaction.

As used herein, the term “conformally depositing,” when used in reference to the application of a barrier coating to a substrate, refers to a process in which the barrier coating is deposited on, and in surface contact with a substrate, regardless of substrate geometry. Conformal deposition of a barrier coating on a substrate to which nanoparticles have already been deposited does not interfere with the exposure of at least a portion of the nanoparticle surface when desired. In such embodiments, the barrier coating can be formulated to fill the voids between nanoparticles without completely encapsulating the nanoparticles. This can be achieved by altering the concentration and/or viscosity of the liquid form of the barrier coating.

As used herein, the term “barrier coating” refers to any coating used to reduce or prevent undesirable nanoparticle-to-nanoparticle interactions such as sintering and agglomeration on a substrate surface. The term also includes coatings used to reduce or prevent undesirable nanoparticle-to-substrate interactions. “Barrier coatings” can be further selected for adherence to particular substrates and/or to protect a substrate from a reactive environment that is used in a reaction in which a nanoparticle is used as a catalyst, seed material, or reactant. Barrier coatings of the invention are thermal insulators that can be applied to a substrate in liquid form, such as gels, suspensions, dispersions, and the like. By providing the barrier coating in a liquid form, it can be subsequently partially or fully cured. The curing process generally involves the application of heat. Exemplary barrier coatings include, for example, spin-on glass or alumina.

As used herein, the term “agglomeration” refers to any process in which nanoparticles disposed on a substrate are fused together. Conditions for agglomeration can include heating to a melting point of the entire nanoparticle or a portion of the nanoparticle, such as its surface. In addition, agglomeration refers to conditions that accelerate surface diffusion of the nanoparticles on the substrate, which includes heating. With respect to the latter conditions, the term “agglomeration” can be used interchangeably with the term “sintering.”

As used herein, the term “nanoparticle” or NP (plural NPs), or grammatical equivalents thereof refers to particles sized between about 0.1 to about 100 nanometers in equivalent spherical diameter, although the NPs need not be spherical in shape. Such nanostructured materials encompass any geometry lacking a large aspect ratio with respect to all dimensions.

As used herein, the term “effective diameter” refers to the average nanoparticle diameter of approximately spherical nanoparticles.

As used herein, the term “embedding,” when used in reference to nanoparticles in barrier coatings, refers to the process of surrounding the nanoparticles with the liquid form of the barrier coating to any depth, including in surface contact with a substrate, and/or encapsulating the nanoparticle completely. “Embedding” the nanoparticles of the invention in the barrier coating and curing the barrier coating can mechanically lock the particles in place preventing their migration and subsequent agglomeration. “Embedding” the nanoparticles in the barrier coating can include placing the particles in the barrier coating to a depth that the nanoparticles are also in surface contact with the substrate on which the barrier coating is deposited, while still maintaining an exposed surface of the nanoparticle. Nanoparticles can also be “embedded” in the barrier coating by applying the barrier coating after placing nanoparticles on a substrate. Nanoparticles can also be embedded in the barrier coating by simultaneous application of the barrier coating and the nanoparticles.

As used herein, the term “carbon nanotube” or “CNT” refers to any of a number of cylindrically-shaped allotropes of carbon of the fullerene family including single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), double-walled carbon nanotubes (DWNTS), multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs). CNTs can be capped by a fullerene-like structure or open-ended. CNTs include those that encapsulate other materials.

As used herein, the term “transition metal” refers to any element or alloy of elements in the d-block of the periodic table. The term “transition metal” also includes salt forms of the base transition metal element such as oxides, carbides, nitrides, acetates, and the like.

As used herein, the term “substrate” refers to any material, the surface of which can be modified by growth of carbon nanotubes employing the methods disclosed herein. Exemplary substrates include fiber materials, such as tapes, yarns, tows, rovings, ribbons, and higher ordered structures such as plies, fabrics, 3D woven and non-woven structures, mats, and the like. Substrates also include flat sheet surfaces such as silicon wafers, graphite sheets, high temperature plastic sheets, and the like.

In some embodiments, the present invention provides a system for synthesizing carbon nanotubes (CNT) on a fiber material that includes 1) a surface treatment system adapted to modify the surface of the fiber material to receive a barrier coating upon which carbon nanotubes are to be grown; 2) a barrier coating application system downstream of the surface treatment system adapted to apply the barrier coating to the treated fiber material surface; and 3) a barrier coating curing system downstream of the barrier coating application system for partially curing the applied barrier coating to enhance reception of a CNT growth catalyst nanoparticles.

The system for CNT synthesis of fiber materials also includes a catalyst application system for depositing CNT growth catalyst nanoparticles. The catalyst nanoparticles can be any d-block transition metal in some embodiments. In some embodiments, the CNT growth catalyst nanoparticles includes iron, iron oxides, and mixtures thereof.

The catalyst application system and barrier coating application system can be configured in several ways. In some embodiments, the two systems are configured for simultaneous deposition of catalyst nanoparticles and barrier coating. In such embodiments, the barrier coating, supplied as a liquid for dip or spray application, can be mixed with catalyst nanoparticles. In other embodiments, the two can be substantially simultaneously supplied by two different spray applicators.

In some embodiments, the catalyst application system is upstream of the barrier coating system. In such embodiments, the catalyst can be applied to the fiber material after plasma treatment or the like. Without being bound by theory, the catalyst nanoparticles can be deposited in the nanoscale pits or wells created by the “roughening” process, as explained herein further below. In this configuration, the barrier coating is applied to the catalyst-laden fiber material and then the barrier coated fiber material is partially cured. It has been indicated that upon partially curing, the nanoparticles are capable of redistribution and can emerge at least some portion of its surface area to make it available for downstream CNT synthesis.

In yet another configuration the catalyst application system is downstream of the barrier coating system. In such embodiments, the catalyst can be applied after partially curing the barrier coating. The partially cured barrier coating provides a “sticky” surface as a conformal coating to capture the deposited nanoparticles and can allow the particle to be embedded to any desirable extent.

The system for CNT synthesis of the invention further includes a CNT growth system that includes a CNT growth chamber equipped with a carbon feedstock supply for chemical vapor deposition (CVD)- or plasma-enhanced CVD-growth of carbon nanotubes. The CNT growth chamber can be a small cavity chamber for efficient utilization of reactive carbon species used in CNT growth. The carbon feedstock can be any type employed in the art, including for example, hydrocarbons, CO, syngas, methanol, acetylene, ethylene, and the like.

Systems of the present invention can be configured for the continuous synthesis of carbon nanotubes on the fiber material. Thus, a fiber material provided in spoolable lengths on a spool or mandrel can be meted out with a payout system upstream of the surface treatment system and, after CNT synthesis, the fiber material can be re-wound downstream of the CNT growth system. In some embodiments, the fiber material coming out of the CNT growth system can be treated in resin bath prior to re-winding.

Referring now to FIG. 1, there is illustrated a schematic diagram of a system 100 for treating the surface of a fiber material, according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention. In the illustrated embodiment, system 100 includes a surface treatment system 110, a barrier coating system 120, and a barrier coating curing system 130. A controller 190 in communication with systems 110, 120 and 130 operates to monitor and/or control various system parameters and processes for preparing the fiber material for carbon nanotube growth on its surface.

Surface treatment system 110 receives a fiber material from an upstream substrate source (not shown). In one configuration, surface treatment system 110 receives a carbon fiber, for example, although any fiber type can be used such as metal fiber, organic fiber, such as an aramid, ceramic fiber, or glass fiber. In this exemplary embodiment, the feed rate of the carbon fiber from the source is controlled by controller 190. Surface treatment system 110 is adapted to alter the surface chemistry of the fiber to improve at least one of the wetting and adhesion properties of the fiber material surface. The improvement in the wetting and adhesion properties of the fiber material surface renders the fiber surface more receptive and retentive of a barrier coating.

In an exemplary embodiment, surface treatment of the fiber surface in surface treatment system 110 includes cold plasma treatment of the fiber. Referring now to FIG. 4, in one configuration, surface treatment system 110 takes the form of a corona discharge based plasma treatment system 400. By way of example only, fiber 430 passes at a given rate through system 400 plasma treatment enclosure (for example, about four (4) feet/min). Fiber 430 passing through system 400 enclosure is exposed to a mixture of a primary gas and a secondary gas. The feed rate of the gas mixture to the system and other variables may be controlled by controller 190. The function of the primary gas is to ignite or create a plasma when subjected to corona discharge. As is known in the art, a corona discharge is an electric discharge resulting from an ionization of a fluid surrounding a conductor, through which an electric current flows, creating a potential gradient exceeding a certain threshold value. The primary gas is ionized to create a plasma when an electric current flows through a conductor immersed in the gas mixture. The function of the secondary gas is to react with the fiber surface to enhance at least one of the wetting and the adhesion properties of the fiber surface. Without being bound by theory, the plasma treatment provides a “roughened” surface creating nano-scale features such as valley in the fiber material surface. The plasma can also create functional group handles that can enhance bonding between the fiber material and the barrier coating. Fiber 430 is subjected to the “exhaust” stream of the plasma 420 from plasma heads 410. Controller 190 controls the rate of plasma discharge from plasma heads 410. Examples of primary gases include helium and argon. An example of a secondary gas is oxygen. The choice of secondary gas can depend on the type of fiber material being treated. For example, oxygen is a useful secondary gas for treatment of a carbon fiber.

By way of example only, a gas mixture can include about thirty (30) liters of primary gas and about 0.3 liter of secondary gas. The fiber is subjected to the gas mixture at a flow rate of about 30.3 liters of the aforementioned gas mixture per minute in the presence of an electric field. Oxygen in the gas mixture can react with carbon bonds on the fiber surface to form various organic functional groups such as carboxyl groups and carbonyl compounds, the latter including organic functional groups such as ketones and aldehydes, for example. Without being bound by theory, it has been indicated that oxygen also tends to remove some carbon atoms from the surface to create further reactive carbon atoms in the network of a carbon fiber material surface. The carboxyl and carbonyl compounds thus formed on the fiber surface have a higher tendency to accept a barrier coating as compared to an untreated carbon fiber surface. This improved adhesion of the barrier coating be the result of non-bonding interactions such as hydrogen bond acceptors and donors associated with the surface functional groups formed by the plasma. In this manner the fiber surface is prepared for the application of a barrier coating thereon.

Referring now to FIG. 5, in another exemplary embodiment, surface treatment of the fiber in system 110 includes a wet coating treatment system 500. System 500 receives fiber 430 from an upstream fiber source. Fiber 430 is immersed in a chemical solution 520 in a container in a bath 510 to treat the surface of fiber 430. Fiber 430 is guided by two guide rollers 540, 550. A bath roller 530 immerses fiber 430 into solution 520. In one configuration the chemical solution includes about 1% (by volume) solute such as dimethylisopropylsilane, methylcylcosiloxane, polysiloxanes, polydimethylsiloxane, polydiphenylsiloxane, polycarbosilanes, alumoxane, methylsiloxane, silane, and/or alkoxysilanes in a solvent such as water. Oxysilanes reacts with the surface of fiber 430 thereby forming compounds thereon which are more receptive of a barrier coating. At least two different sets of functional groups are formed on the surface. The first set of functional groups bonds well with the fiber whereas the second set of function group bonds well with the barrier coating. These compounds collectively tend to adhere to the fiber surface and to a barrier coating, thereby enhancing the adhesion between the fiber surface and the barrier coating. After the surface treatment, fiber 430 exits the treatment system 500 and enters the downstream barrier coating system 120. Barrier coating system 120 operates to apply a barrier coating on the treated fiber material surface. In an exemplary embodiment, a barrier coating is applied in thicknesses ranging from about 10 nanometers (nm) to about 100 nanometers (nm). The type of barrier coating depends on the fibers and the catalyst chemistries. A barrier coating material is selected so as to protect the fiber from interaction with the catalyst particles. In an exemplary embodiment, a coating for a carbon fiber includes an alumina coating such as alumoxane, alumina nanoparticles, or other alumina coating solutions. In another embodiment, a coating for a carbon fiber includes a glass coating, such as spin on glass, glass nanoparticles or other glass coating solutions such as methyl siloxane based solutions. Such boundary coatings or barrier coatings can also be used on other substrates such as glass fibers, KEVLAR® (a type of aramid fiber), as well as other organic fibers. For example, alumoxane may be used on KEVLAR® to protect it from high temperatures encountered in the carbon nanotubes growth processes. One of the criteria for the selection of the barrier coating material is how well it adheres to a given fiber material surface. Another of the criteria is the degree to which the coating mitigates the interaction of carbon nanotube growth catalyst nanoparticles with the fiber surface.

In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, barrier coating system 120 includes a dip coating system. The dip coating system can be similar to the system 500 shown in FIG. 5. System 500 receives a surface treated fiber 430 from upstream surface treatment system 110. In one configuration, a solution containing about 1 part (by volume) methyl-siloxane based solution in about 120 parts solvent such as isopropyl alcohol is used. Fiber material 430, for example, a carbon fiber, is fed at the given rate (for example, about 4 feet/minute) into the solution for a given duration td of about 15 seconds. The barrier coating thus applied on the surface of fiber material 430 has a thickness in the range of about 10 nm to about 100 nm, in some embodiments, and in the range of about 10 nm to about 20 nm, in other embodiments. The dipping time or residence time of the fiber material in the solution can be adjusted to obtain a uniform barrier coating on the fiber surface. The residence time can also be varied to account for different types of fibers and their corresponding barrier coating materials. The thickness of the resulting barrier coating is a function of the concentration of the coating solution and thus can be varied by adjusting the concentration of coating solution 520. Other coating materials include alumina-based coatings such as alumoxane, alumina nanoparticles, and glass-based coatings such as spin on glass and glass nanoparticles. After the application of the barrier coating, the fiber is then supplied to downstream barrier coating curing system 130.

Referring now to FIG. 6, in another exemplary embodiment, barrier coating system 120 includes a spray coating system 600. Coating system 600 receives surface treated fiber 430 from treatment system 110. The methyl siloxane-isopropyl alcohol-solution, from fluid reservoir 610, described herein above may be used to apply, via one or more spray nozzles 630, the barrier coating onto the surface of fiber 430. Solution 650 is sprayed uniformly onto fiber 430. The fiber feed rate, nozzle orientation and spray rate and pressure can be controlled via controller 190. Once a barrier coating of sufficient thickness is sprayed onto the surface of fiber 430, fiber 430 is supplied to downstream barrier coating curing system 130. Barrier coating curing system 130 is operative to partially cure the barrier coating to create a pseudo-cured state of the barrier coating. System 130 receives the treated fiber that has passed through the barrier coating application station 120. At this time, the newly applied barrier coating can lack sufficient structural rigidity to remain, permanently adhered to the fiber surface because the transformation of the barrier coating to a monolithic solid coating is not yet complete. System 130 operates to partially cure the fiber barrier coating to increase its structural rigidity to accept and retain the CNT catalyst nanoparticles and ensure that the barrier coating remains adhered to the fiber surface. In some embodiments, the CNT catalyst nanoparticles can be applied prior to partially curing and in some such embodiments, the CNT catalyst nanoparticles can be applied substantially simultaneously with application of the barrier coating, including mixing the catalyst nanoparticles in the barrier coating solution.

In one configuration, system 130 includes a heat chamber that subjects the fiber to a temperature of about 250° C. in a locally purged atmosphere. In an exemplary embodiment, nitrogen (N2) gas may be used to create the locally purged atmosphere which mitigates any atmospheric contamination of the freshly applied barrier coating on the fiber material surface. The fiber material passes through system 130 at a given rate (for example, about four (4) feet/sec). The partial curing of fiber with the barrier coating creates a pseudo-cured state, or a gel-like state, of the barrier coating, which becomes sufficiently rigid to remain adhered to the fiber surface while remaining receptive to catalyst nanoparticles which can be applied thereafter, although as explained above, the catalyst can be applied substantially simultaneously with the barrier coating.

After the application of the barrier coating, the fiber is then supplied to a catalyst coating system for the application of the catalyst nanoparticles on the fiber material. The catalyst particles can be applied on the treated fiber using wet dipping or chemical bath methods. The applied catalyst nanoparticles adhere to the pseudo-cured barrier coating. In the case of simultaneous deposition with the barrier coating, the catalyst nanoparticles are disposed throughout the barrier coating layer.

In some embodiments, the barrier coated fibers are passed through a growth chamber for the synthesis of carbon nanotubes and the relatively high temperature completely cures the barrier coating on the fiber surface. In some embodiments, fully curing the barrier coating can be performed separately from the CNT growth chamber. During CNT growth, the catalyst nanoparticles become more reactive at the relatively high temperatures and embed themselves in the barrier coating which is simultaneously cured completely. At the same time, CNT formation can occur as the catalyst nanoparticles embedded in the barrier coating initiate the nucleation of CNTs when subjected to a cracked carbon feed gas under appropriate conditions. For example, the temperatures in the growth chamber may be about 500° C. or higher. The barrier coating thus protects the fiber surface by mitigating detrimental fiber surface to catalyst nanoparticle interaction which can result in catalyst poisoning while facilitating in situ growth of carbon nanotubes on the carbon fibers. The barrier coating can also prevent migration and sintering of the nanoparticles on the fiber material surface.

It is understood that controller 190 can be adapted to independently sense, monitor and control system parameters including one or more of substrate feed rate, plasma gas mixture feed rate, and curing temperature. Controller 190 can be an integrated, automated computerized system controller that receives parameter data and performs various automated adjustments of control parameters or a manual control arrangement.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a schematic diagram of a system 200 for treating the surface of a substrate, according to another exemplary embodiment of the invention is illustrated. In the illustrated embodiment, system 200 includes a fiber separation system 240, surface treatment system 110, barrier coating system 120, a barrier coating curing system 130, and a catalyst coating system 250. When a bundle of fibers, such as a tow (or roving or yarn), is to be treated, fiber separation system 240 is used to spread the fibers. Exemplary tows can include between about 1000 to about 12000 fibers. In an exemplary embodiment, a tow is spread and planarized using a positive air pressure. In another embodiment, the tow is spread and planarized using a negative air pressure, such as a vacuum or partial vacuum. In an exemplary embodiment, fiber separation system 240 is an air knife. As is known in the art, an air knife is a pressurized air plenum containing a series of holes or continuous slots through which pressurized air exits in a laminar flow pattern. In other embodiments, other known techniques and devices may be used to spread or separate the fibers of the fiber tow.

Once the fibers are spread or separated, they are fed downstream to the surface treatment system 110, barrier coating system 120, and barrier coating curing system 130 as described herein above. The fiber with barrier coating is then supplied to downstream catalyst coating system 250. In one configuration, catalyst coating system 250 is a colloidal nanoparticle solution of the catalyst particles such as iron oxide or nickel oxide. The fiber with barrier coating is immersed in the solution where the catalyst particles embed in the pseudo-cured barrier coating. The catalyst coated fiber is then introduced into a growth chamber at an appropriate temperature along with appropriate carbon feed gas. Free carbon radicals resulting from the dissociation of the carbon feed gas initiate the growth of carbon nanotubes in the presence of the catalyst nanoparticles on the fiber material surface.

Referring now to FIG. 3, there is illustrated a process flow for preparing a bundle of fibers, such as a fiber tow, for the growth of carbon nanotubes, according to some embodiments of the invention. At block 310, a fiber bundle, or a tow, is spread to facilitate surface treatment of the fibers by exposing the fiber surface area. At block 320, the fibers are subjected to a surface treatment process to prepare the surfaces of the fibers for application of the barrier coating. The surface treatment process alters the surface chemistry of the fibers to improve at least one of the wetting and adhesion properties to the barrier coating. At block 330, the barrier coating is applied to the fibers. The barrier coating protects the fibers and mitigates the interaction between the catalyst particles and the fiber surfaces, which interaction is detrimental to the growth of carbon nanotubes. The barrier coating protects the fibers from high temperature oxidation and degradation as well. At block 340, the barrier coating is partially cured to create a pseudo-cured state of the barrier coating. In the pseudo-cured state of the barrier coating, the catalyst particles are embedded in the barrier coating.

Referring now to FIG. 10, there is illustrated schematically a cross-sectional view of an exemplary substrate 1010 resulting from the process of FIG. 3. A barrier coating 1020 is applied to a fiber material substrate 1010. Subsequent application of catalyst nanoparticles to the barrier coating coated substrate 1010 results in catalyst nanoparticles embedded in barrier coating 1020. Barrier coating 1020 serves to minimize interaction between catalyst nanoparticles 1030 and substrate 1010 and between catalyst nanoparticles with each other.

Referring now to FIG. 7, there is shown a schematic diagram of a system 700 for treating the surface of a substrate, according to yet another exemplary embodiment of the invention. Components of system 700 are similar to the components of system 200 as shown in FIG. 2. In system 200, the catalyst nanoparticles are applied to the fibers after a barrier coating has been applied to the fibers and has been partially cured. In contrast, in system 700, the catalyst particles are applied to surface treated fibers arriving from surface treatment system 110. After the catalyst particles are applied to the fiber surface, the fibers are supplied to the barrier coating system 120 for an application of a barrier coating and subsequently to barrier coating curing system 130 for curing the barrier coating.

Fibers are surface treated in surface treatment system 110 using techniques such as plasma treatment and wet chemical etching. The surface treated fibers are thus rendered receptive to and retentive of the catalyst nanoparticles. The surface treated fibers are then supplied to catalyst application system 250 wherein the catalyst particles are applied to fiber surfaces. The catalyst particles are chemically and/or mechanically bonded to the fiber surface. It has been indicated that the surface treatment of the fibers creates a favorable morphology including nanoscale features such as pits and grooves that allows for mechanical interlocking of the catalyst particles with the fiber surface as well as for adhesion of the barrier coating to the fiber surface. It has further been indicated that chemical bonding between the catalyst particles and the curing barrier coating occurs as a result of covalent and/or pi-pi interactions formed therebetween.

Now referring to FIG. 8, there is illustrated a process flow for preparing a bundle of fibers (i.e. a fiber tow) for growth of carbon nanotubes, according to another aspect of the invention. At block 810, a fiber bundle, or a tow, is spread to facilitate the surface treatment of the fibers by exposing the fiber surface area. At block 820, the fibers are subjected to a surface treatment process to prepare the surfaces of the fibers for application of the barrier coating. The surface treatment process alters the surface chemistry of the fibers to improve at least one of the wetting and adhesion properties to the barrier coating. At block 830, the catalyst particles are applied to the surface treated fibers. The catalyst particles are mechanically and/or chemically bonded to the fiber surface.

At block 840, the barrier coating is applied to the fibers. The barrier coating protects the fibers and mitigates the interaction between the catalyst particles and the fiber surfaces, which interaction is detrimental to the growth of carbon nanotubes. The barrier coating protects the fibers from high temperature oxidation and degradation as well. At block 840, the barrier coating is at least partially cured to create a pseudo-cured state of the barrier coating. While the barrier coating is being at least partially cured, the catalyst nanoparticles applied to the fiber surface can, in some embodiments, emerge through the barrier coating. The catalyst nanoparticles so emerged from the barrier coating provide nucleation sites for the carbon nanotubes synthesis, when the fiber material is introduced in a CNT growth chamber. The barrier coating also acts to anchor the catalyst nanoparticles to the fiber surface while mitigating chemical interaction of the fiber surface with the catalyst particles.

Referring now to FIG. 9, there is illustrated schematically a cross-sectional view of an exemplary substrate 910 resulting from the process of FIG. 8. Catalyst particles 930 are applied to substrate 910. Subsequently, a barrier coating 920 is applied to substrate 1010. As barrier coating 920 is at least partially cured, catalyst particles 930 emerge through barrier coating 920 to provide nucleation sites of carbon nanotubes. Barrier coating 1020 serves to minimize interactions between catalyst particles 1030 and substrate 1010, thereby mitigating poisoning of catalyst particles 930. Barrier coating 1020 also serves to minimize interactions between catalyst particles 1030 with themselves.

Regardless of the sequence of the catalyst application and the barrier coating application steps, the fiber material is coated with a barrier coating interspersed with catalyst nanoparticles. The catalyst nanoparticles can protrude from the barrier coating and provide nucleation sites for carbon nanotube synthesis. When such a substrate is introduced into a growth chamber and subjected to high temperatures employed in carbon nanotube synthesis, the barrier coating effectively reduces the exposure of the substrate surface to high temperatures. This reduced exposure, in turn, mitigates undesired chemical reactions of the substrate surface with the catalyst particles, thereby reducing poisoning of the catalyst particles. The reduction in the catalyst poisoning enhances the CNT yields during the CNT synthesis in the growth chamber.

The methods and systems of the present invention can produce carbon nanotubes in a greater weight percentage on the fibers than conventional methods for CNT growth on fibers. For example, current methods which alter the catalyst chemistry achieve a very low yield of fiber on the surface, for example, no more than about 0.5% to about 1.0% of the composite mass. The methods described herein achieve a typical yield of greater than about 3% to about 5% and in certain cases up to about 20% of the composite mass, in a resin matrix. However, the methods of the invention can also be purposefully employed for lower loadings. Thus, for example, a loading as low as about 0.1% can be achieved. In some embodiments, the weight percent range of infused CNTs on a fiber can be between about 0.1 to about 20%, including 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, 5%, 6%, 7%, 8%, 9%, 10%, 11%, 12%, 13%, 14%, 15%, 16%, 17%, 18%, 19%, and 20%, and any fraction in between.

Methods of the present invention provide carbon nanotubes on substrates that are well-aligned and are perpendicular to the substrate. The CNTs grown on the nanotubes can be of sufficient density and/or length that they entangle and/or such that they may share a common CNT wall. In other embodiments, the CNTs can be grown perpendicular to the substrate and parallel, but do not share any CNT walls. Increased carbon nanotube to fiber adhesion in CNT infused products translates to improved transfer load through the interface of the carbon nanotubes and the substrate surface.

The present disclosure is also directed, in part, to methods that employ barrier coatings on any substrate, including fiber-based substrates, to “lock” nanoparticles distributed on a substrate or fiber surface in place to substantially reduce nanoparticle sintering and agglomeration at high temperatures. The barrier coatings employed in the methods disclosed herein are in contact with the nanoparticles. In some embodiments, the barrier coating does not fully encapsulate the nanoparticles, allowing the nanoparticles to be exposed to desired reaction environments while preventing nanoparticle sintering and agglomeration. In some embodiments, the barrier coating does fully encapsulate the nanoparticles. In such applications, the function of the nanoparticle can be, for example, as a means of absorbing high energy radiation. The heat associated with such absorption can be sufficient to cause nanoparticle sintering in the absence of the barrier coating. The barrier coating and nanoparticles can be disposed on the substrate surface sequentially in any order or they can be applied to the substrate simultaneously.

The barrier coatings employed in methods disclosed herein can be provided as a sufficiently thin layer (equal to or less than the effective nanoparticle diameter) that the barrier coating itself does not influence the reactivity profile and/or course of the reactions catalyzed or seeded by the nanoparticles. For example, when using CNT growth catalysts embedded in nanochanneled template materials for aligned CNT growth, the template dictates the CNT dimensions, including width, and direction of CNT growth (Li et al. App. Phys. Lett. 75(3):367-369 (1999)).

In some embodiments, the barrier coating can completely embed the nanoparticles. In some embodiments, a barrier coating can embed the nanoparticles while also allowing a degree of diffusion through the barrier coating to allow access to the embedded nanoparticles. Methods of the invention embed nanoparticles in the barrier coating in a dense array without the restrictions of any kind of pre-formed template. This can provide a greater nanoparticle density, as well as a more uniform density of nanoparticles. These benefits are realized by providing the barrier coating in a liquid form which allows the barrier coating to conform to the nanoparticle dimensions. This is particularly beneficial in CNT synthesis applications because sintering is prevented and CNT morphology is controlled by the nanoparticle itself, rather than a pre-determined channel in which the CNT resides.

The barrier coatings employed in methods disclosed herein provide a means to prevent sintering and agglomeration of nanoparticles under high mobility conditions by preventing nanoparticle-to-nanoparticle interactions. The barrier coatings can also prevent nanoparticle-to-substrate interactions by means of physical separation and mechanical interlocking of the nanoparticles in the barrier coating, as exemplified in FIG. 11. For example, a metallic nanoparticle can form an alloy with a metal substrate. The barrier coating can prevent such alloy formation. Similarly, in the area of CNT growth, the barrier coating can prevent nanoparticle-to-substrate interactions between a transition metal catalyst and a carbon rich substrate. Such nanoparticle-to-substrate interaction can poison the transition metal nanoparticle catalyst by providing an excessive amount of carbon as feedstock under CNT growth conditions. More generally, the barrier coatings employed in methods disclosed herein facilitate the use of nanoparticles with substrates that would otherwise be incompatible in the absence of the barrier coating.

In some embodiments, the embedded nanoparticles can be in surface contact with the substrate as shown in FIG. 12 while still avoiding or reducing nanoparticle-to-substrate interactions. For example, the barrier coating can be used to minimize the contact area between the substrate and the nanoparticles. In some embodiments, even where there is still appreciable contact area between the nanoparticles and the substrate, a sufficiently thick barrier coating can provide a thermal barrier so that the nanoparticle-substrate contact interface is at a sufficiently low temperature to avoid any deleterious interactions. In some embodiments, when the nanoparticle is in contact with a substrate surface, a barrier coating thickness can be used that encapsulates the nanoparticle while still allowing diffusion of reactive materials through the barrier coating to allow nanoparticle catalyzed reactions to take place. For example, in the case of CVD CNT growth, carbon atoms from a CVD carbon feedstock can diffuse through an appropriate barrier coating material. In such embodiments, it can be desirable to have a barrier coating thickness that is approximately the same or just slightly more than the effective diameter of the nanoparticle catalysts.

An additional use of the barrier coating can be to protect sensitive substrates from high temperature and/or reactive environments used in connection with reactions of the embedded nanoparticles. For example, some carbon-based substrates may not be stable under high reaction temperatures or when exposed to a variety of reaction conditions, such as a strongly oxidative environment.

The present invention is also directed, in part, to articles that include a substrate having a barrier coating conformally disposed on at least one surface of the substrate with a plurality of nanoparticles embedded in the barrier coating. Such articles can be used in further reactions to modify the substrate and hence properties of the article. For example, CNTs can be grown on the surface of the substrate, as exemplified in FIG. 13, when employing transition metal nanoparticles. Such CNTs can be useful in the manufacture of organized CNT arrays for use in surface enhanced Raman applications and microelectronic structures, in the preparation of reinforcing materials in composites and other composite applications such as EMI shielding, signature control, and lightning strike protection. Articles of the invention can also include barrier coated substrates with embedded nanoparticles in which the nanoparticles serve as catalysts for other reactions where high temperatures are employed, but in which the article remains unchanged. For example, articles can include immobilized catalyst nanoparticles for combustion reactions, as might be employed in a catalytic converter.

In some embodiments, the present invention provides a method that includes (a) conformally depositing a barrier coating on at least one surface of a substrate; the barrier coating is provided in liquid form; (b) embedding a plurality of nanoparticles in the barrier coating to a selected depth creating an embedded portion of each of the plurality of nanoparticles; and (c) fully curing the barrier coating after embedding the plurality of nanoparticles. The embedded portions of each of the plurality of nanoparticles are in continuous contact with the cured barrier coating. The barrier coating does not affect the arrangement of the plurality of nanoparticles embedded therein. Thus, the barrier coating does not behave as a template dictating the relative placement of the nanoparticles. The result of this process is a barrier-coated substrate with locked nanoparticles that can be used in a variety of contexts depending on the exact choice of nanoparticle and substrate employed, as further described below. In some embodiments, the step of conformally depositing the barrier coating and embedding the plurality of nanoparticles is simultaneous. Thus, the barrier coating material can also be applied to the substrate in situ with the nanoparticles via solutions that contain both the barrier coating and nanoparticle material ('hybrid solutions').

In some embodiments, the methods described herein control particle dispersion on a variety of shaped objects. This includes an efficient means of coating composite materials like fibers or fabrics and irregular shaped materials. Moreover, methods of the invention control and maintain a nanoparticle density on substrate surfaces, even when exposed to conditions that might cause NP diffusion and/or sintering.

In some embodiments, the present invention provides a method that includes (a) conformally depositing a barrier coating on at least one surface of a substrate and (b) embedding a plurality of nanoparticles in the barrier coating, wherein the thickness of the barrier coating is about the same or greater than the effective diameter of the plurality of nanoparticles. In such embodiments, the thickness of the barrier coating can be between about equal to the effective diameter of the plurality of nanoparticles up to about 5,000% greater than this effective diameter. Thus, the thickness of the barrier coating can be 0.01% greater than this diameter or 0.1%, or 0.5%, 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%, 150%, 200%, 250%, 300%, 350%, 400%, 500%, 1,000%, 1,500%, 2,000%, and so on up to about 5,000% greater than the effective diameter of the plurality of nanoparticles, including an value in between and fractions thereof.

In some embodiments, the nanoparticles are prevented from agglomerating when subjected to heating, for example. In some embodiments, a barrier coating that encapsulates the plurality of nanoparticles can be useful in applications where reactant access to the NPs is not employed. For example, in electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding applications, the barrier coatings can be transparent to electromagnetic radiation, but the NPs can effectively absorb the EM radiation. This absorption can cause the NPs to heat; thus, the barrier coating can prevent sintering in such instances. In some embodiments, the barrier coating can encapsulate the plurality of NPs without denying access to the particle when, for example, a porous barrier coating is employed. In such embodiments, although the particle is technically encapsulated, the porous nature of the barrier coating allows access to reactive surfaces of the NP.

In some embodiments, the plurality of nanoparticles can be embedded partially in the barrier coating providing a physical boundary between the nanoparticle and the substrate, as shown in FIG. 1. In other embodiments, the embedded nanoparticles can be in surface contact with substrate, as shown in FIG. 12. In still further embodiments, the embedded nanoparticles can be a mixture of a first portion separated from the substrate and a second portion and in surface contact with the substrate. In some applications it can be beneficial to avoid direct surface contact between the substrate and the nanoparticles. For example, with a metal substrate and a metal nanoparticle, partial embedding of the nanoparticle can help avoid formation of alloys when the nanoparticle is exposed to high temperatures. Similarly, in the case of CNT growth with transition metal nanoparticle catalysts, it can be useful to separate the catalyst from a carbon rich substrate that might react with the nanoparticle.

In some embodiments, the nanoparticles are completely encapsulated in the barrier coating, but an exposed surface is created through a number of subsequent processes. For example, when fully curing the barrier coating some materials can form fissures in the coating in the vicinity of nanoparticles which can provide an interface between the nanoparticles and a reactive environment. Other barrier coating materials can create the necessary access to the nanoparticles through the formation of a porous cured structure.

In some embodiments, fully encapsulated nanoparticles can be treated with a plasma to roughen the surface of the barrier coating and create exposed nanoparticle surfaces. Similarly, the barrier coating with encapsulated nanoparticles can be treated with a wet chemical etching agent for a period sufficient to expose a portion of the surface of the nanoparticles.

In still further embodiments, fully encapsulated nanoparticles can be treated under mechanical roughening conditions to expose a portion of the surface of the nanoparticles. This can be done through any physical abrasive method such as sand blasting, laser ablation, ball milling, plasma etching, and the like.

Regardless of the degree with which the nanoparticles are embedded in the barrier coating, the barrier coating can serve to mechanically lock the nanoparticles in place to prevent their agglomeration or sintering when subjected to heat. Without being bound by theory, this is accomplished by restricting the movement of the nanoparticles on the substrate surface reducing NP diffusion. Thus, the nanoparticle-to-nanoparticle interaction is substantially reduced or eliminated by the presence of the barrier coating.

The barrier coating can also provide a thermal barrier for use with low melting substrates. In this regard, the barrier coating can minimize or reduce to zero the surface area contact between the plurality of nanoparticles and the substrate to mitigate the effects of the exposure of the substrate to temperatures which the nanoparticles might be heated or, more generally, to avoid exposure of the substrate to the reaction environment to which the plurality of nanoparticles can be at least partially exposed.

In some embodiments the thickness of the barrier coating is generally chosen to be about equal to, less than, or slightly less than the effective diameter of the plurality of nanoparticles so that there remains an exposed nanoparticle surface for subsequent exposure to a reaction environment. In other embodiments, the thickness can also be more than the effective diameter of the nanoparticles by employing any number of techniques described above to create an exposed surface of the nanoparticles. In some embodiments, the thickness of the barrier coating is between about 0.1 nm and about 100 nm. In some embodiments, the thickness can be less than 10 nm, including 1 nm, 2 nm, 3 nm, 4 nm, 5 nm, 6 nm, 7 nm, 8 nm, 9 nm, and any value in between. The exact choice of barrier coating thickness can be chosen to approximately match or be less than the effective diameter of the plurality of nanoparticles. In some embodiments, the embedded plurality of nanoparticles maintains an exposed surface even when the nanoparticles are in surface contact with the substrate. In some embodiments, the thickness of the barrier coating coats is such that it covers about half the nanoparticle surface area. In some embodiments, the thickness of the barrier coating covers about 10% of the nanoparticle surface area, while in other embodiments, the thickness of the barrier coating covers about 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, 40%, 45%, 50%, 55%, 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%, 98%, and 100% of the surface area of the nanoparticles, including all values in between. In still other embodiments, the barrier coating covers the nanoparticle when applied but a portion of the nanoparticle is exposed upon further treatments or choice of porous barrier coating.

In some embodiments, the methods of the invention can include treating the substrate with a plasma prior to conformally depositing the barrier coating. Treating the substrate in a plasma process can serve a dual role of creating functional groups and roughening the substrate surface, thereby increasing its effective surface area, to improve the wetting properties of the substrate and thus improve the conformal deposition of the barrier coating. Substrate surface modification can be achieved using a plasma of any one or more of a variety of different gases, including, without limitation, argon, helium, oxygen, ammonia, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

In some embodiments, the step of depositing the barrier coating is accomplished by a technique selected from dip coating and spraying. Thus, the barrier coating can be solution based and applied via dip bath configuration, spray methods, or the like in some embodiments. The exact choice of method can be dictated by a number of factors, including, for example, the substrate geometry. For irregular shaped substrates, it can be useful to employ dip methods that avoid the use of directionally applied barrier coatings, such as in spray applications. For substrates in which a single side should be coated, such as a wafer substrate, it can be useful to apply the barrier coating with spray or related techniques (nebulizers, for example) to assure coating on only one side. Other factors to consider in applying the barrier coating can depend on the barrier coating material itself including, for example, the ability to form solutions or homogenous suspensions for dip or spray coating.

When applying the barrier coating via dip or spray methods, for example, the thickness of the barrier coating can be controlled by use of diluents. Diluents can include any solvent compatible with both the substrate and nanoparticle materials. For dip coating, in particular, the thickness of the barrier coating can be a function of concentration of the barrier coating material and the residence time in the dip bath. The residence time can also aid in providing uniformity of the coating. Uniformity can also be insured by employing multiple dip baths.

The barrier coating includes a material selected from a siloxane, a silane, an alumina, a silicon carbide ceramic, a metal, and mixtures thereof. In some embodiments, the choice of barrier coating can be chosen for its ability to adhere to the substrate. There are many types of barrier coating materials including, for example, those that are siloxane-based, silane-based, alumina-based, silicon carbide-based ceramics, and metallic based. Alumina based materials include, for example, alumoxane, alumina nanoparticles, and alumina coating solutions, including, for example, alumina-based coatings available from Zircar Ceramics, such as Alumina Rigidizer/Hardener Type AL-R/H. In some embodiments, glass coatings such as spin on glass, glass nanoparticles, or siloxane-based solutions, such as methyl siloxane in isopropyl alcohol, can be used as barrier coating materials. Metallic based barrier coatings useful in the invention include, for example, molybdenum, aluminum, silver, gold, and platinum. Silicon carbide based ceramics include, for example, SMP-10, RD-212a, Polyaramic RD-684a and Polyaramic RD-688a available from Starfire.

Barrier coatings can also act as multifunctional coatings tailored to specific applications. A specific type of barrier coating can be selected to both prevent sintering as well as promote adhesion to the substrate. For composite applications, a barrier coating can selected to prevent sintering as well as bond well to the composite matrix material. In still further embodiments, the barrier coating material can be selected for adhesion both to the substrate as well a composite matrix material. In yet further embodiments, more than one barrier coating can be employed. A first barrier coating can be selected for its ability to adhere to the substrate surface. A second barrier coating can be selected for its ability to adhere, for example, to a composite matrix material such as a resin, ceramic, metal, or the like.

In some embodiments, methods of the invention include partially curing the barrier coating prior to embedding said plurality of nanoparticles. Partial curing of the barrier coating can provide a “sticky” surface to embed the nanoparticles while preventing movement of the applied nanoparticles to minimize particle-to-particle interaction. Partial curing can also be caused by the method used to apply the nanoparticles to the barrier coating. In such a case, the partial curing step and embedding step are performed simultaneously. Partial curing temperatures are generally below the normal cure temperature, and can include temperature that are between about 50 to about 75% of the normal cure temperature and for residence times on the order of seconds.

In some embodiments, methods of the present invention further include heating the environment about the embedded plurality of nanoparticles, in the presence of a feedstock material, to a temperature promoting growth of a plurality of nanostructures from the feedstock material. In some embodiments, the embedded plurality of nanoparticles can catalyze the growth of the nanostructures. In some embodiments, the nanoparticles act as a seed for growth of the nanostructure, without behaving as a true catalyst. In still further embodiments, the nanoparticles catalyze a reaction which does not alter the substrate, barrier coating, or the nanoparticles. Thus, the nanoparticle can catalyze a gas phase reaction in which the products remain in the gas phase, for example. In some embodiments, the temperature of a given reaction is sufficient to cause agglomeration of the plurality of nanoparticles in the absence of the barrier coating. Thus, the barrier coating provides an effective means for preventing sintering.

In some embodiments, the nanoparticles include a transition metal. The catalyst transition metal nanoparticle can be any d-block transition metal as described above. In addition, the nanoparticles can include alloys and non-alloy mixtures of d-block metals in elemental form or in salt form, and mixtures thereof. Such salt forms include, without limitation, oxides, carbides, and nitrides. Non-limiting exemplary transition metal NPs include Ni, Fe, Co, Mo, Cu, Pt, Au, and Ag and salts thereof, such as acetates and chlorides, and mixtures thereof. In some embodiments, the transition metal is used as a CNT forming catalyst. Many of these transition metal catalysts are readily commercially available from a variety of suppliers, including, for example, Ferrotec Corporation (Bedford, N.H.).

In some embodiments, the feedstock material is a carbon source, which when used in conjunction with the aforementioned transition metals, allows for the synthesis of nanostructures such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs). These CNTs can be single-walled, double-walled, or other multi-walled CNTs. One skilled in the art will recognize the relationship between nanoparticle size and the type of CNTs that can be grown. For example, single-walled CNTs are normally accessible with nanoparticle catalysts less than about 1 nm. CNT growth conditions are typically between about 500 to about 1,000° C., a temperature at which sintering is observable and can impact successful CNT growth.

Many substrate types, such as carbon and stainless steel, are not normally ammenable to CNT growth of high yields when only a catalyst nanoparticle is applied to the surface due to high levels of sintering. Barrier coatings are useful, however, for high-yield CNT growth, even on these challenging substrates.

On the surface of a substrate, a catalyst nanoparticle's ability to nucleate CNT growth can depend on the presence of sufficient barrier coating material at that location of the substrate surface to substantially reduce or prevent sintering. CNT growth can be performed when the catalyst nanoparticles are applied to the substrate prior to the barrier coating (‘reverse order’). The benefit of a ‘reverse order’ process is that the barrier coating keeps the catalyst locked onto the substrate, and therefore allows for anchoring of the CNTs to the substrate surface. Without being bound by theory, when barrier coating is applied prior to catalyst coating the CNT nanoparticle catalyst tends to follow the leading edge of CNT synthesis, that is, tip-growth results. The ‘reverse order’ coatings can promote base-growth.

In some embodiments, the feedstock can be a carbon source mixed with other gases as might be found, for example, in a combustion process. In such embodiments, embedded transition metal nanoparticles, such as platinum, palladium, rhodium, cerium, manganese, iron, nickel, or copper can be used to modulate the oxidation of the carbon source. The favorable surface area to volume of a nanoparticle can improve the catalytic performance in such combustion processes. This type of reaction can find application, for example, in catalytic converters. It can also be useful in various industrial petroleum processes such as in refining and in downhole operations to catalyze the cracking of heavy hydrocarbons for enhanced oil recovery, thus maximizing formation productivity.

In some embodiments, other uses of transition metal nanoparticles include the manufacture of high density magnetic recording media that employ FePt nanoparticles. One skilled in the art will recognize that sintering of FePt nanoparticles is problematic when attempting to induce phase the change to obtain the useful face-centered tetragonal FePt structure. This phase change is generally conducted by heating at about 550° C. and is accompanied by sintering. The barrier coatings disclosed herein are useful in preventing this sintering.

In some embodiments, a transition metal nanoparticle can be used in desulfurization processes. For example, nickel and molybdenum catalysts have been used in the desulfurization of bitumen. In such processes, expensive supports such as uranium oxide have been employed to prevent sintering during recycle of the catalyst. Methods of the present invention employing a barrier coating can be employed to prevent such sintering, while avoiding the use of expensive support materials.

In some embodiments, a transition metal nanoparticle can be used in syngas production processes. It has been determined that sintering of CeO2 in Rh—CeO2 catalysts limits the use of this catalyst system. The barrier coating employed in methods disclosed herein can be used to prevent this sintering and enhance the biomass to syngas transformation, for example.

In some embodiments, the nanoparticles can include other metal containing materials such as ceramics, for example, oxides, carbides, borides, of zinc, titanium, aluminum, and the like. Other materials that do not contain transition metals such as clays, silica, silicates, aluminosilicates and the like can also be used.

Any of the aforementioned nanoparticles can range in size from between about 0.1 nm to about 100 nm. In some embodiments, the size of the nanoparticles can be in a range from between about 1 to about 75 nm, and between about 10 to 50 nm in other embodiments. In some embodiments, the size of the nanoparticles is in a range from between about 0.1 to about 1 nm. In other embodiments, the size of the nanoparticles is in a range from between about 2 to about 10 nm. In still further embodiments, the size of the nanoparticles is in a range from between about 10 to about 20 nm, from between about 20 to about 30 nm, from between about 30 to about 40 nm, from between about 40 to about 50 nm, from between about 50 to about 60 nm, from between about 60 to about 70 nm, from between about 70 to about 80 nm, from between about 80 to about 90 nm, and from between about 90 to about 100 nm, including all values in between. The choice of size can depend on the application. In catalytic processes, as described above, it can be desirable to utilize smaller particles to benefit from the larger surface area to volume. More generally, at the nanoparticle scale, one skilled in the art will recognize the quantized nature of the properties of the nanoparticles and that an appropriate size can be determined through theoretical considerations and calculations. For example, a particular particle size can be designed to absorb specific wavelengths of radiation.

The rate of sintering of a metallic nanoparticles can vary depending on the substrate on which it is disposed. However, by employing the barrier coatings in methods of the present invention, any substrate type can be used. For example, the substrate can include a metal, a ceramic, a silica wafer, a fiber, a graphite sheet, high temperature plastics, such as polyimides, PEEK, PEI and the like.

In some embodiments, the present invention provides a method that includes: (a) depositing a plurality of nanoparticles on at least one surface of a substrate; (b) conformally depositing a barrier coating over the substrate and at least a portion of each of the plurality of nanoparticles, creating an embedded portion of each of the plurality of nanoparticles; the barrier coating is provided in liquid form; and (c) fully curing the barrier coating. The plurality of nanoparticles are in surface contact with the substrate in such embodiments, and the embedded portion of each of the plurality of nanoparticles is in continuous contact with the cured barrier coating. This is described above as “reverse order” process and is shown graphically in FIG. 2. In this configuration, the barrier coating can also prevent the agglomeration of the plurality of nanoparticles when exposed to heat, or other processes that might cause sintering. As described above, the thickness of the barrier coating can be about the same or slightly less than the effective diameter of the plurality of nanoparticles allowing the plurality of nanoparticles to maintain an exposed portion of their surface. Alternatively the thickness of the barrier coating can be greater than effective diameter of the plurality of nanoparticles. In some embodiments, the methods described above for post barrier coating handling can be used when the barrier coating encapsulates the nanoparticles completely.

When employing the “reverse order” process, the substrate can be treated with a plasma prior to depositing the plurality of nanoparticles. This can provide the exposed substrate surface with good wetting characteristics as described above. Similarly, the step of depositing the barrier coating can be accomplished by a technique selected from dip coating and spraying as described above. Moreover, any of the above applications, conditions and general considerations apply equally to the “reverse order” methods of the invention.

The methods of the invention can be used to produce an article that includes a substrate having a barrier coating conformally disposed on at least one surface of the substrate and a plurality of nanoparticles embedded in the barrier coating. The barrier coating function can be to prevent the agglomeration of the plurality of nanoparticles when subjected to heat or other chemical and/or physical processes.

The thickness of the barrier coating in articles of the invention can be about the same or slightly less than the effective diameter of said plurality of nanoparticles allowing said plurality of nanoparticles to maintain an exposed portion of their surface when said nanoparticles are, optionally, in surface contact with the substrate. In particular embodiments, the embedded plurality of nanoparticles are in surface contact with the substrate. Articles of the invention can include a substrate that is a metal, ceramic, silica wafer, fiber, graphite sheet, and high temperature plastic, as describe above.

Any of the nanoparticle types and sizes described above can be used in connection with the articles of the invention. In some embodiments, articles of the invention include, composite materials having a matrix material and carbon nanotubes infused to a fiber. In combustion and related catalyst applications articles of the invention include a) catalytic converters, b) catalyst reaction beds used in refining, syngas production, desulfurization and the like, c) downhole tools used in oil recovery, and d) high density storage media.

It is understood that modifications which do not substantially affect the activity of the various embodiments of this invention are also included within the definition of the invention provided herein. Accordingly, the following examples are intended to illustrate but not limit the present invention.

Example I

This example shows how a barrier layer can be used in a ceramic fiber composite structure to prevent sintering of iron nanoparticles applied to the ceramic fiber surface for enhanced signature control characteristics.

FIG. 14 depicts system 400 for producing a high temperature ceramic fiber composite with enhanced signature control characteristics in accordance with the illustrative embodiment of the present invention. System 400 includes a ceramic fiber 402, barrier coating solution bath 404, nanoparticle solution bath 406, coating curing system 408, filament winding system 410, and a resin infusion system 412, interrelated as shown.

The ceramic fiber 402 used is a Silicon Carbide Sylramic™ fiber tow (1600 denier—10 micron diameter) (COI Ceramics, Inc).

A barrier coating 404, consisting of the Starfire SMP-10, RD-212a solution is applied to the ceramic fiber 402 via a dip process. A diluted solution of 1 part SMP-10 and 10 parts isopropyl alcohol is used in the dip process to apply a 2-4 nm thick coating.

The nanoparticle solution 406 used is GTP 9700 (NanoChemonics), an iron oxide nanoparticle mixed in a toluene solution. The nanoparticle solution is used to apply a uniform distribution of iron oxide nanoparticles on the surface of the barrier coating 404. Solutions containing less than 10% iron oxide by weight is used to create nanoparticle coatings with 20-40 nm spaced nanoparticles.

The coating curing system 408 consists of a set of heaters used to cure the combine barrier and nanoparticle coating 409. The coated fiber is exposed to a temperature of 200 C for 2 hours along with a platinum-based catalyst to aid in the curing process.

The cured coating locks the nanoparticles into position, and the coated fiber is wound into a component using the filament winding system 410.

The filament wound component 411 is then infused with a bismaleimide matrix using the resin infusion system 412.

The final cured high temperature ceramic fiber composite structure 413 is able to withstand brief high temperature exposure as high as 600 C while maintaining signature control characteristics which are imparted due to the dispersed iron oxide nanoparticle coating. This nanoparticle coating will not sinter as a result of its interaction with the cured barrier coating.

Example II

This example shows how carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can be grown on the surface of a carbon fiber using a barrier coating to prevent sintering of the iron nanoparticle catalyst.

FIG. 15 depicts system 500 for producing CNTs on carbon fiber (34-700 12 k unsized carbon fiber tow with a tex value of 800—Grafil Inc., Sacramento, Calif.) in accordance with the illustrative embodiment of the present invention. System 500 includes a carbon fiber material payout and tensioner station 505, plasma treatment station 515, barrier coating application station 520, air dry station 525, catalyst application station 530, solvent flash-off station 535, CNT-growth station 540, and carbon fiber material uptake bobbin 550, interrelated as shown.

Payout and tension station 505 includes payout bobbin 506 and tensioner 507. The payout bobbin delivers an unsized carbon fiber material 560 to the process; the fiber is tensioned via tensioner 507. For this example, the carbon fiber is processed at a linespeed of 2 ft/min.

Unsized fiber 560 is delivered to plasma treatment station 515. For this example, atmospheric plasma treatment is utilized in a ‘downstream’ manner from a distance of 1 mm from the spread carbon fiber material. The gaseous feedstock is comprised of 100% helium.

Plasma enhanced fiber 565 is delivered to barrier coating station 520. In this illustrative example, a siloxane-based barrier coating solution is employed in a dip coating configuration. The solution is ‘Accuglass T-11 Spin-On Glass’ (Honeywell International Inc., Morristown, N.J.) diluted in isopropyl alcohol by a dilution rate of 40 to 1 by volume. The resulting barrier coating thickness on the carbon fiber material is approximately 40 nm. The barrier coating can be applied at room temperature in the ambient environment.

Barrier coated carbon fiber 590 is delivered to air dry station 525 for partial curing of the nanoscale barrier coating. The air dry station sends a stream of heated air across the entire carbon fiber spread. Temperatures employed can be in the range of 100° C. to about 500° C.

After air drying, barrier coated carbon fiber 590 is delivered to catalyst application station 530. In this example, an iron oxide-based CNT forming catalyst solution is employed in a dip coating configuration. The solution is ‘EFH-1’ (Ferrotec Corporation, Bedford, N.H.) diluted in hexane by a dilution rate of 200 to 1 by volume. A monolayer of catalyst coating is achieved on the carbon fiber material. ‘EFH-1’ prior to dilution has a nanoparticle concentration ranging from 3-15% by volume. The iron oxide nanoparticles are of composition Fe2O3 and Fe3O4 and are approximately 8 nm in diameter.

Catalyst-laden carbon fiber material 595 is delivered to solvent flash-off station 535. The solvent flash-off station sends a stream of air across the entire carbon fiber spread. In this example, room temperature air can be employed in order to flash-off all hexane left on the catalyst-laden carbon fiber material.

After solvent flash-off, catalyst-laden fiber 595 is finally advanced to CNT-growth station 540. In this example, a rectangular reactor with a 12 inch growth zone is used to employ CVD growth at atmospheric pressure. 98.0% of the total gas flow is inert gas (Nitrogen) and the other 2.0% is the carbon feedstock (acetylene). The growth zone is held at 750° C. For the rectangular reactor mentioned above, 750° C. is a relatively high growth temperature. The addition of the barrier coating prevents sintering of the catalyst nanoparticle at CNT growth temperatures, allowing for effective high density CNT growth on the surface of the carbon fiber.

CNT coated fiber 597 is wound about uptake fiber bobbin 550 for storage. CNT coated fiber 597 is loaded with CNTs approximately 50 μm in length and is then ready for use in composite materials.

It is to be understood that the above-described embodiments are merely illustrative of the present invention and that many variations of the above-described embodiments can be devised by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, in this Specification, numerous specific details are provided in order to provide a thorough description and understanding of the illustrative embodiments of the present invention. Those skilled in the art will recognize, however, that the invention can be practiced without one or more of those details, or with other processes, materials, components, etc.

Furthermore, in some instances, well-known structures, materials, or operations are not shown or described in detail to avoid obscuring aspects of the illustrative embodiments. It is understood that the various embodiments shown in the Figures are illustrative, and are not necessarily drawn to scale. Reference throughout the specification to “one embodiment” or “an embodiment” or “some embodiments” means that a particular feature, structure, material, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment(s) is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention, but not necessarily all embodiments. Consequently, the appearances of the phrase “in one embodiment,” “in an embodiment,” or “in some embodiments” in various places throughout the Specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment. Furthermore, the particular features, structures, materials, or characteristics can be combined in any suitable manner in one or more embodiments. It is therefore intended that such variations be included within the scope of the following claims and their equivalents.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8815341 *Sep 13, 2011Aug 26, 2014Applied Nanostructured Solutions, LlcCarbon fiber substrates having carbon nanotubes grown thereon and processes for production thereof
US20120070667 *Sep 13, 2011Mar 22, 2012Applied Nanostructured Solutions, LlcCarbon fiber substrates having carbon nanotubes grown thereon and processes for production thereof
WO2013006031A1 *Jun 22, 2012Jan 10, 2013Mimos BerhadA method of fabricating a nanocomposite thin film with metallic nanoparticles
Classifications
U.S. Classification118/723.00R, 977/843, 118/724, 118/58
International ClassificationC23C16/00, B05C9/14
Cooperative ClassificationB82Y40/00, B82Y30/00, B01J37/0219, B01J35/0013, C01B31/0233, D06B3/10, B01J23/745, B01J21/185, D06M11/74, D06B1/02, Y10S977/842, C01B31/0226, D06B19/00
European ClassificationD06B19/00, D06B1/02, D06B3/10, B82Y30/00, B01J21/18C, B01J23/745, D06M11/74, B01J37/02C4, C01B31/02B4B2, B01J35/00C, B82Y40/00
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 6, 2010ASAssignment
Owner name: APPLIED NANOSTRUCTURED SOLUTIONS, LLC, MARYLAND
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:024349/0133
Effective date: 20100429
Apr 7, 2010ASAssignment
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:MALECKI, HARRY C.;ALBERDING, MARK R.;MALET, BRANDON K.;AND OTHERS;SIGNING DATES FROM 20100323 TO 20100331;REEL/FRAME:024201/0659
Owner name: LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, MARYLAND