The use of flames to synthesize materials is a relatively new field in combustion research. Carbon nano-tubes were synthesized first around 1985, and their structure was defined around 1991. The thermal, chemical and fluid dynamic structures of a typical laminar diffusion flame, like a candle flame, seem simple but unknowns have yet to be explored. Carbon nanotubes are a good example of an unknown. While many studies have elucidated the mechanisms of soot formation to control the production of this powder-like, amorphous carbon, few would have predicted that flames also can produce very different types of carbon like Buckminsterfullerene (or buckyballs). At the IR4TD, unique flame synthesis techniques are used to produce and harvest multi-walled carbon nano-tubes (MWCNTs), including the insertion of a substrate mesh into particular regions of the flame. Also developed was a chemical vapor deposition technique that increased the efficiency by which MWCNTs could be harvested. The IR4TD knows how to study and manipulate flames for material synthesis.
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