An experimental and theoretical examination of the effect of sulfur on the pyrolytically grown carbon nanotubes from sucrose-based solid state precursors
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Multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) were synthesized through pyrolysis of the sulfuric acid-carbonized byproduct of sucrose. While the presence of sulfur in the reaction media has a key role in the formation and population density of MWCNTs, we have not observed the formation of Y-junctions or encountered other novel carbon nanotube formations. Results indicate the presence of sulfur in catalyst particles trapped inside nanotubes, but failed to find sulfur in the side-walls of the CNTs. In order to verify and explain these findings, we analyzed the behavior of sulfur and its possible effects on the side-wall structure of CNTs by using density functional theory-based calculations on various atomic models depicting sulfur inclusion in the side-walls. The results of the computational study were in line with the experimental results and also provided a new perspective by suggesting that the defects such as pentagons may act as nucleation sites for the Y-branches. The results indicated that sulfur prefers to adsorb on these defective regions, but it is not responsible for the formation of these structures or defects.