Plasma intensity during the growth of vertically aligned carbon nanofibres by direct-current plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition has been greatly reduced to avoid the associated detrimental overetching and overheating effects due to intense ion flux bombardment. With the plasma current significantly decreased, the plasma configuration undergoes an abrupt change, which is qualitatively identified as a state transition from glow to dark discharge region. A plasma current density (< 6.2 mu A cm(-2)), 2-3 orders of magnitude lower than values ever reported, is shown to be effective for growing large-scale well-aligned carbon nanofibres at 400 degrees C. This low-energy dark discharge regime enables the growth of large arrays of small-diameter (down to 5 nm) carbon nanofibre field emitters with a reduced site density on soda-lime glass for flat panel displays, and direct carbon nanofibre growth on transparent conducting oxides for optoelectronic applications.
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