BORON CARBIDE NANOWIRES: SYNTHESIS AND CHARACTERIZATION
Bulk boron carbide has been widely used in ballistic armored vest and the property characterization has been heavily focused on mechanical properties. Even though boron carbides have also been projected as a promising class of high temperature thermoelectric materials for energy harvesting, the research has been limited in this field. Since the thermal conductivity of bulk boron carbide is still relatively high, there is a great opportunity to take advantage of the nano effect to further reduce it for better thermoelectric performance. This dissertation work aims to explore whether improved thermoelectric performance can be found in boron carbide nanowires compared with their bulk counterparts.This dissertation work consists of four main parts. (1) Synthesis of boron carbide nanowires. Boron carbide nanowires were synthesized by co-pyrolysis of diborane and methane at low temperatures (with 879 °C as the lowest) in a home-built low pressure chemical vapor deposition (LPCVD) system. The CVD-based method is energy efficient and cost effective. The as-synthesized nanowires were characterized by electron microscopy extensively. The transmission electron microscopy (TEM) results show the nanowires are single crystalline with planar defects. Depending on the geometrical relationship between the preferred growth direction of the nanowire and the orientation of the defects, the as-synthesized nanowires could be further divided into two categories: transverse fault (TF) nanowires grow normal to the defect plane, while axial fault (AF) ones grow within the defect plane. (2) Understanding the growth mechanism of as-synthesized boron carbide nanowires. The growth mechanism can be generally considered as the famous vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) mechanism. TF and AF nanowires were found to be guided by Ni-B catalysts of two phases. A TF nanowire is lead by a hexagonal phase catalyst, which was proved to be in a liquid state during reaction. While an AF nanowires is catalyzed by a solid orthorhombic phase catalyst. The status of a catalyst depends mainly on temperature. (3) Observation of "invisible" defects in boron carbide nanowires. The planar defects can only be seen under a transmission electron microscope when the electron beam is within the defect plane. Furthermore, there are only two directions within that plane, along which the orientation of defect can be told and clear TEM results can be taken. The challenge is that the TEM sample holder is limited to tilt ±30° in each direction. A theory was developed based on lattice calculation and simulation to tell the orientation of defect even not from those unique directions. Furthermore, it was tested by experimental data and proved to be successful. (4) Preliminary exploration of structure-transport property of as-synthesized boron carbide nanowires. In collaboration with experts in the field of thermal science, thermal transport properties of a few boron carbide nanowires were studied. All measured nanowires were either pre-characterized or post-characterized by TEM to reveal their structural information such as diameter, fault orientations and chemical composition. The obtained structural information was then analyzed together with measured thermal conductivity to establish a structure-transport property relation. Current data indicate that TF ones have a lower thermal conductivity, which is also diameter-dependent.