The catalyst particles are made of "transition metals," such as iron, cobalt, nickel or palladium. Because the catalyst particles are about 10 nanometers in diameter, they allow the formation of tubes of similar diameter.
The branching dendrites are tipped with molecules called amines, which act as handles to stick to the silicon surface.
"This is important because for heat-transfer applications, you want the nanotubes to be well-anchored," Amama said.
Researchers usually produce carbon nanotubes separately and then attach them to the silicon chips or mix them with a polymer and then apply them as a paste.
"Our direct growth approach, however, addresses the critical heat-flow path, which is between the chip surface and the nanotubes themselves," Fisher said. "Without this direct connection, the thermal performance suffers greatly."
Because the dendrimers have a uniform composition and structure, the researchers were able to control the distribution and density of catalyst particles.
The research team also has been able to control the number of "defect sites" in the lattice of carbon atoms making up the tubes, creating tubes that are more flexible. This increased flexibility causes the nanotube forests to conform to the surface of the heat sink, making for better contact and improved heat conduction.
"The tubes bend like toothbrush bristles, and they stick into the gaps and make a lot of real contact," Cola said.
The carbon nanotubes were grown using a technique called microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition, a relatively inexpensive method for manufacturing a thermal-interface material made of carbon nanotubes, Fisher said.
"The plasma deposition approach allows us great flexibility in controlling the growth environment and has enabled us to grow carbon nanotube arrays over a broad range of substrate temperatures," Fisher said.
|Contact: Emil Venere|