Chemical and electronic modification of carbon nanomaterials using nitrogen plasma

Nitrogen doped carbon nanomaterials offer significant potential as catalysts for fuel cell applications especially at the oxygen reduction cathode. They offer a metal free and inexpensive alternative to precious metal catalysts (Pt) without sacrificing catalytic activity.

The incorporation of nitrogen atoms into carbon nanotubes or graphene has been achieved by introducing the dopant species to the feedstock during chemical vapour deposition or by post annealing in a nitrogen containing atmosphere. These approaches fail to provide a homogenous distribution, to control the nature of the dopant species and site selectivity. An alternative versatile approach is plasma treatment which offers short treatment times, high doping yields and control over introduced nitrogen functionalities. We explore the effect of nitrogen plasma treatments on carbon nanotubes and graphene nanoplatelets in terms of changes to the surface chemistry, electronic properties and oxygen reduction activity.