This paper reviews transmission electron microscopy studies, combining high resolution imaging and electron energy loss spectroscopy, of the nucleation and growth of carbon single wall nanotubes with a particular emphasis on the nanotubes obtained from the evaporation-based elaboration techniques. Inspection of samples obtained from different synthesis routes shows that in all cases nanotubes are found to emerge from catalyst particles and that they have grown perpendicular or parallel to the surface according to whether they have been synthesized via evaporation-based methods or CCVD methods. Whereas the latter case corresponds to the well-known situation of carbon filaments growth, the former case strongly suggests another formation and growth process, which is described and its different steps discussed in detail. In this model, formation of the nanotubes proceeds via solvation of carbon into liquid metal droplets, followed by precipitation, at the surface of the particles, of excess carbon in the form of nanotubes through a nucleation and root growth process. It is argued that the nucleation of the nanotubes, which compete with the formation of graphene sheets wrapping the surface of the particle, necessarily results from a surface instability induced by the conditions of segregation. The nature and the origin of this instability was studied in the case of the class of catalyst Ni-R.E. (R.E. = Y, La, Ce,...) in order to identify the influence of the nature of the catalyst. The respective roles played by Ni and R.E. have been identified. It is shown that carbon and rear-earth co-segregate and self-assemble at the surface of the particle in order to form a surface layer destabilizing the formation of graphene sheets and providing nucleation sites for nanotubes growing perpendicular to the surface. © 2003 Académie des sciences. Published by Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.
Loiseau, A., Gavillet, J., Ducastelle, F., Thibault, J., Stéphan, O., Bernier, P., & Thair, S. (2003). Nucleation and growth of SWNT: TEM studies of the role of the catalyst. Comptes Rendus Physique. Elsevier Masson SAS. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crhy.2003.10.022