Oxide-coated vertically aligned carbon nanotube forests as thermal interface materials
Vasquez, Cristal Jeanette
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Carbon nanotube (CNT) forests have outstanding thermal, electrical, and mechanical properties, which have generated significant interest as thermal interface materials (TIMs). Some drawbacks to using CNTs as TIMs include poor substrate adhesion, high interface resistances inhibiting thermal transport, and lack of electrical insulation in electronic component applications. It is thus useful to be able to modify CNTs to reduce their electrical conductivity while maintaining high thermal conductivity and interface conductance, and high mechanical compliance. A recent report suggests that nanoscale oxide coatings could be applied to CNTs in forests without changing the mechanical deformation behavior of the forests. Oxide coatings could also provide environmental stability as well as better adhesion to the substrate compared to pristine CNT forests. In this study, we investigated thermal and electrical resistance of CNT forests with an oxide coating. Low-pressure chemical vapor deposition (LPCVD) was used to produce CNTs on high-conductivity Si substrates. Plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition (PALD) was used to deposit Al2O3 on individual CNTs in forests. This process was facilitated by O2 plasma pretreatment to functionalize the surface of the CNTs and nucleate oxide growth. Several analytical techniques were used to characterize the CNT-oxide composites, including scanning electron microscopy, Raman and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Thermal conductivity and thermal interface resistance were measured using a modified photoacoustic technique. The oxide coating had no significant effect on the effective thermal conductivity of the forests, in contrast to expectations of increased phonon scattering. Electrical resistivity measurements were made and a threefold increase was observed for the oxide-coated forests. This approach could emerge as a promising route to create a viable TIM for thermally conductive and electrically insulating applications.
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