Journal of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, 2014, 2, 1-6
Published Online January 2014 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/msce)
OPEN ACCESS MSCE
Soot and Nanomaterials Synthesis in the Flame
Institute of Combustion Problems, Almaty, Republic of Kazakhstan
Received October 2013
The general scheme of conversion of hydrocarbon fuels with new experimental data on the formation of fullere-
nes and graphenes taking into account the pressure effect is proposed for the fuel-rich flames. It is shown that
the formation of fullerenes is important to the corresponding spatial orientation of PAH, possible at low pres-
sures. The formation of hydrophobic soot surface on silicon and nickel substrates during combustion of pro-
pane-oxygen flame was studied. It is established that the hydrophobic properties are due to the presence of soot
particles in the form nanobeads. The photovoltaic properties of solar cells coated by nickel oxide nanoparticles
synthesized in counter flow propane-air flame. It is revealed that coated the surface of a silicon solar cell by
nickel oxide nanoparticles results in the increase in solar cell efficiency by 3%.
Soot; Nanomaterials; Hydrophobic; Nanoparticle
The process of soot formation has been the object of nu-
merous investigations for more than 100 years [1,2], and
such investigations did not loose their significance to the
present day. This is explained, first of all, by the fact that
soot is an industrial product produced on a world scale in
the amount of 107 tons a year. The black (technological)
carbon is used as a filler of elastometers (90% of the
technological carbon is used for this purpose, and 2/3 of
it—in the production of tires) and has a wide application
in printers. However, soot is a carcinogenic pollutant of
the environment, formed as a result of the combustion of
hydrocarbon fuels in power plants and engines. For ex-
ample, diesel engines with direct fuel injection initially
transform approximately 10% - 20% of the fuel intro-
duced into the soot. Simultaneously with the soot forma-
tion, fullerenes and nanotubes are formed by the mecha-
nism competing with the mechanism of soot formation.
A knowledge of the conditions and mechanisms of for-
mation of soot, fullerenes, and nanotubes in a flame al-
lows one to change the combustion such that soot parti-
cles, fullerenes, or nanotubes are predominately formed.
At the present time a large number of experimental
data on the processes of soot formation have been accu-
mulated and different phenomenological models have
been proposed [3,4]. However, the mechanism of soot
formation is imperfectly understood yet. This is ex-
plained by the fact that even in simple cases, such as the
homogeneous pyrolysis of hydrocarbons, this process
includes a large number of rapid simultaneous reactions
leading to the formation of a new solid phase—soot par-
ticles (e.g., the time of transformation of methane with a
molecular mass of 16 a.m.u into the soot with the mo-
lecular mass more than 106 a.m.u makes 10−4 - 10−2 s).
Considerable interest of scientific and technical com-
munities to study production processes, structure and
properties of nanosized systems is caused by variety and
uniqueness of their practical applications. The small size
of structural components—typically up to 100 nm - de-
termines the difference in the properties of nanomaterials
from massive analogues. Flame is a self-sustaining sys-
tem in which hydrocarbons can be precursors of carbon
nanomaterials, and the heat released during combustion,
is a parameter of the process control. It is known that
PAH are nucleation centers of forming soot i.e . PAH can
be converted into either soot or fullerenes. The formation
of CNTs occurs in diffusion flames from the fuel side
and is initiated by transition metals particles.
The C60 and C70 fullerene ions were detected in flames
in 1987 and identified by the mass-spectrometry method
. Howard et al.  have obtained large amounts of C60
and С70 in laminar premixed soot forming flames of
benzene and oxygen at low pressures. Unlike the evapo-
ration of graphite, in the fullerenes formed in flames the
ratio C70/C60 changes from 0.26 to 8.8 (in the case of
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. MSCE
evaporation of graphite, this ratio changes from 0.02 to
The original results on development of carbon nano-
materials of different functional application which were
obtained at the Institute of Combustion Problems.
2. Formation of Soot and Synthesis of
Fullerenes in Flame
The formation of fullerenes occurs at low pressures, and
corresponding space orientation which requires the ac-
count of steric factor is important here.
It should be noted, that formation of such elegant
molecule of С60 requires the necessary space orientation
of two molecules of С30. There are different formation
models of fullerenes С60 one of which is carried out by
zipper-me c h an is m.
Low pressures are the necessary conditions of such
mechanism. With increasing of pressure, i.e., transition
to the atmospheric and above, where triple collision take
place and coagulation of PAH occurs, with formation of
soot clusters. Howard has shown that the maximum of
fullerene formation shifted to the right relative to the
maximum of soot formation. At detailed examination by
him the formation of fullerenes from benzene flame is
shown that there is the second maximum at a distance of
70 mm from matrix of burner .
These data become the basis for development of alter-
native method for obtaining of fullerenes in the regime of
A series of experiments on the study of the yield of
fullerenes in a premixed benzene-argon-oxygen flame
exposed to a longitudinal electric field under the condi-
tions of a dark discharge, a corona discharge, and a glow
discharge [4,7] at C/O = 1.0, P = 40 torr, a benzene-flow
rate Q1 = 250 cm3/min, an oxygen-flow rate Q2 = 758
cm3/min, an argon-flow rate Q3 = 101 cm3/min (10% of
the combustion-mixture volume), V= 18.4 cm/s.
It has been stated that the negative polarity of the up-
per electrode is more favorable for the fullerene forma-
tion as compared to the positive one. The investigations
carried out under the conditions where the upper elec-
trode was positioned directly above a flame have shown
that, in this case, the yield of fullerenes increases. The
influence of the type of an electrode and the height of its
position above a flame on the formation of fullerenes was
investi gat ed for determining the conditions providing
their maximum yield. Electrodes in the form of a needle
and a ring were used. The investigations were carried out
at a negative polarity of the upper electrode under the
conditions where UH = 7 kV, H = 1 - 9 cm (with a step of
1 cm). A glow discharge appeared independently of the
type of an electrode at different heights of its disposition
above the flame. In this case, the average temperature of
the flame increased to T = 1200˚C (without a field, this
temperature was equal to T = 950˚C).
Thus, it has been stated that the yield of fullerenes in-
creases under the action of a glow discharge in the case
where an electrode (a needle or a ring) is positioned di-
rectly above flame and that a maximum yield of fullere-
nes is attained with the use of a ring electrode placed
above the central region of the flame front. The maxi-
mum yield of the fullerene С60 was β = 15% of the soot
3. Formation of Carbon Nanotubes in
The most promising way to produce carbon nanotubes,
according to Merchan-Merchan et al. , is the flame
method. In the synthesis of carbon nanoparticles using
flames, part of the fuel is consumed in heating of the
mixture, and part is used as a reactant, which makes this
method more cost-effective than methods based on the
use of electricity, pyrolysis of hydrocarbons or arc
evaporation of graphite.
The results of the study of a flat diffusion propane-
oxygen flame stabilized on an opposed-jet burner at at-
mospheric pressure are presented in . Two opposed
flows formed the flat flame. The flame was surrounded
by an external nitrogen flow supplied from the burner
matrices. A solution of catalyst [Fe(CO)5 or an alcohol
solution of nickel nitrate] was sprayed by an ultrasonic
nebulizer and delivered through a metal nozzle into the
flame from the side of the fuel.
The resulting products were deposited on the walls of
the reactor and collected in traps with liquid nitrogen.
The temperature in the reactor was measured by a ther-
mocouple, and in the flame by an Iron Ultrimax pyrome-
It is evident from Figure 1 that the samples contain
soot agglomerates, among which metal particles are en-
countered. It was found that under certain experimental
conditions, well-ordered bundles of carbon nanotubes 20
- 30 nm in diameter formed.
4. Formation of Hydrophobic Soot in
Low surface-energy materials like amorphous carbon
(a-C) films are frequently used to modify surfaces in or-
der to control their wettability. The nanobeads are mor-
phologicall y similar to the carbon nanopearls synthesized
by Levesque and co-workers  through acetylene dis-
sociation at 700˚C on nickel catalyst nanoclusters. Puri et
al. have determined new ways of the synthesis of carbon
nanotubes in the fuel-rich diffusion flames, exposed to an
electric field during 2 - 10 min, on superhydrophobic
surfaces representing nanodimensional round amorphous
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. MSCE
Figure 1. Electron micrographs of samples: (1) carbon
nanotube; (2) Ni in a carbon shell.
carbon particles deposited on a silicon substrate .
The formation of hydrophobic soot surface on silicon
and nickel substrates during combustion of propane-
oxygen flame was studied . It is stated that the hy-
drophobic properties are due to the presence of soot par-
ticles in the form nanobeads. The schematic diagram of
the synthesis process is presented in Figure 2 and Figure
3 shows water droplets on superhydrophobic soot.
Studies have shown that carbon deposits on the plates
different in the morphological structure of deposited par-
ticles in different zones. In the central and middle zone
long chains of individuals formed in the form nanobeads
15 - 30 nm without applying an electric field, and 40 - 50
nm with an electric field. In the outer zone, regardless of
the conditions of combustion, there are coagulated ag-
gregates of soot particles with sizes 30 - 50 nm.
The results for the exploration of the soot formation of
hydrophobic surfaces on silicon substrates and nickel
during combustion of propane oxygen flame are listed.
The distance from the burner matrix and the substrate
was varied, the exposure time and the influence of the
electric field of different polarity and voltage. It is shown
that at the exposure of more than 4 minutes the soot with
hydrophobic properties is formed and a division of the
soot surface area occurs. The application of an electric
Figure 2. Schematic diagram of the synthesis process.
Figure 3. Water droplets on superhydrophobic soot.
field narrows the soot deposition on the substrate and in
diameter of 2.5 - 3 cm from the centre; the soot super
hydrophobic surface with a wetting angle of more than
170˚ is formed.
5. Formation of a Layered Graphene in the
The study of the formation of layered graphene films was
carried out in the propane-oxygen flame under the fol-
lowing conditions: flow rate of propane—219.1 cm3/min,
the flow of oxygen—381.2 cm3/min, corresponding to
the ratio of C/O = 0.86.
The studies were carried out both with the addition of
argon in benzene-oxygen mixture in an amount of 300 -
650 cm3/min and without argon. As catalytic substrates
used plates made of copper and nickel, are placed in the
Varied range of residence time of the substrate in the
flame: 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 60 seconds, 5 and 10 minutes,
the angle varied substrate relative to the vertical axis of
the flame: α = 0˚, 30˚, 45˚, 60˚, 85˚. Flame temperature in
the experiments was in the range 900˚ - 950˚. Formed on
the substrate samples were examined for particulate
structures Raman spectrometer NTEGRA Spectra.
It was found that a substrate of nickel is more pre-
ferred for the synthesis of graphene films. A copper
catalyst substrate is an intensive formation of the amor-
phous structure of carbon black and copper oxides. Fur-
ther studies were conducted on a nickel substrate.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. MSCE
Figure 4 shows the Raman spectrum of the two layers
of graphene, when placed in a flame of nickel substrate at
an angle of 30 degrees to the vertical axis of the flame
yielded two layers (IG/I2D = 1,1), Raman spectrum is
shown in F ig ure 4(a). The further increase in the angle
of inclination of the substrate relative to the vertical axis
of the flame (over 30˚) leads to the increase in the mini-
mum number of graphene layers formed on a substrate -
from 5 to 10 (IG/I2D = 1,7 - 2,4), Figure 4(b).
On the basis of the data on synthesis of fullerenes,
carbon nanotubes, superhydrophobic soot and graphene
in the flame it is possible to modify the general scheme
proposed by H. Bockhorn  for rich fuel flames, namely
Figure 4. Raman spectra of graphene layers synthesized on
nickel substrate in propane-oxyg en-argon flame (C/O = 0.86;
t = 917˚C; τ = 5 min); (a) two layers (α= 30˚, IG/I2D = 1,1);
(b) five layers (α = 45˚, IG/I2D = 1,7).
to make a pressure-coordinate, which allows the forma-
tion of fullerenes at low pressures, and soot at high pre-
ssures. In addition the scheme was completed by gra-
phene formation as an intermediate product stage of gra-
phene formation (Fig ure 5).
6. Increase of the Power of Solar Elements
Using Nickel Oxide Nanoparticles
Synthesized in Flame
The main advantage of synthesis of nanoparticles in hy-
drocarbon flames is that average time of the full conver-
sion of fuel in a narrow zone of flame front is a few mil-
liseconds that provide nearly immediate formation of
expected product. Catalysts which are necessary for the
growth of nanoparticles of metals or their oxides can be
introduced. Different types and methods of introducing
catalysts into reaction flame zone allow influencing the
properties and sizes of nanoparticles being obtained .
This work presents the results of the investigations on
synthesis of nickel oxide nanoparticles in propane-oxy-
gen counter-flow flame . The generated nanoparticles
are subsequently used to increase the efficiency of light
conversion in the solar cells.
The burner is positioned inside a hollow stainless steel
cylinder with the diameter of 150 mm and height of 82
mm. Two nozzles are installed on the axis of this cylin-
der opposite to each other. The nozzles are composed of
two cylinders with one cylinder inserted into another.
Oxidizer and fuel are supplied through the internal cyl-
inders from the opposite sides. In this study, propane was
used as a fuel and oxygen was used as an oxidizer. A
Figure 5. Modified scheme for soot, fullerenes and graphene
formation process in flames.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. MSCE
diameter of a visible flame front was 30 - 35 mm.
Nichrome wire with the diameter of 0.3 mm was used
as a substrate for the growth of nickel oxide nanoparti-
cles. X-ray fluorescent analysis of Nichrome wire shows
the following composition: Ni—60.27%, Fe—25.26%,
Cr—14.45% and Ti—0.0174%. Before nanoparticle
synthesis, Nicrome wire was pretreated for 20 minutes
with 25% solution of nitric acid.
Figure 6 shows scanning electron microscope (SEM)
images of Nichrome wire treated in oxygen zone of dif-
fusion counter flow propane-oxygen flame for the time
interval of 2 minutes.
The results of SEM studies show that the treatment of
nicrome wire with flame for 2 minutes leads to the for-
mation of nickel oxide nanoparticles on its surface with
an average size of 300 nm. High temperature and active
radicals formed in propane-oxygen flame interact with
nickel surface promoting the growth of nickel nanoparti-
cles. After coating of nickel oxide nanoparticle were on
the surface of solar cell on atomic power microscope.
The resulting image (Figure 7) shows that the size of
metal oxide nanoparticles on the surface of a solar cell
depends on the residence time in the flame.
Silicon solar cells with an active region of 1 cm2 were
used in this study. The solar elements being investigated
were made of monocrystalline silicon alloyed with boron
of p-type conductivity with specific resistance of 10
Ohm⋅cm and specific crystallographic orientation (100).
Silicon plates with the thickness of 300 µm were
smoothly-polished on both sides. Frontal n-layer was
formed by a thermal diffusion of POCl3 at the tempera-
ture of 900˚C for 20 minutes in inert medium. This
Figure 6. SEM images of a nichrome wire treated in the
oxygen zone of the diffusion counter flow propane-oxygen
Figure 7. Micrograph of nickel oxide nanoparticles on the
surface of the solar cell, 5 sec (a) 2 min (b).
resulted in the formation of p-n transition with the thick-
ness of ~0.3 µm. Back contact was formed by spraying
metallic aluminum in high vacuum with subsequent an-
nealing at 700˚C. Front side Ti-Ag contacts were applied
using photolithography. In-Ga contact was soldered di-
rectly to n-layer. The surface of the solar cell of such a
construction was covered with nickel oxide nanoparti-
To obtain uniform coating based on nanoparticles on
the surface of the solar cell, suspension of nanoparticles
in ethanol was preliminary created using an ultrasonic
bath. Up to 0.1 ml of suspension was necessary to coat
one solar element. Prior to coating, the measurements of
a short–circuit current and an open-circuit voltage of non-
coated solar element were carried out. Without changing
the conditions of the experiment short-circuits current
and open-circuit voltage were measured after application
of the coating.
The measurement unit consisted of the chamber cov-
ered with lightproof tissue from the outside to protect it
from mechanical dust and external sources of radiation.
Halogen lamp which stably radiated light similar to solar
spectrum was used as a source of light. Inside the cham-
ber there was a special support for fixing the solar cell.
The chamber allowed reproducible measurements with a
great accuracy irrespective of the substitution of a sample
being investigated. The measurements for each sample
were carried out with the time interval of 30 minutes for
3 hours. The values of current and voltage were regis-
tered using multimeter (with the accuracy of ±0.5%).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. MSCE
Power output of uncoated vs. coated solar cell with high
concentration of nickel oxide/methanol suspension. Bars
indicate a 95% confidence interval for measured values
The wavelength dependent light transmission of the
coating applied to the surface of the solar element is of a
great importance for its effective work. The spectra of
the transmission of the coating based on nickel oxide
nanoparticles to the surface of quartz substrate with the
concentration of 8 × 104 particle/cm2 were recorded in a
wavelength range from 400 to 1100 nm. The analysis
shows that in a short-wave region a slight decrease is
observed, because of light absorption in nanostructures
whereas in visible and long-wave regions transmission
coefficient reaches 93%.
Open-circuit voltage increased to 4% - 7%, the short-
circuit current increased to 20% - 28%, efficiency of the
solar cells increased by 2% to 3%, at a fill factor of the
element being equal to 0.75. The absence of other factors
which may cause the increase of the output power of the
solar cells means that original cause is the application of
We would like to note uniqueness of using the counter
flow of the burner to the opposing jets for the synthesis
of nanomaterials, which was created by Potter  and
Weinberg  to study the structure of the flame front.
Diffusion burner on the counter flow can be effec-
tively used for the production of carbon nanotubes in the
synthesis of the fuel, as well as for the introduction of
metal oxide nichrome wire into the zone of oxygen sup-
Figure 8. Power output of uncoated vs. coated solar cell
with high concentration of nickel oxide/methanol suspen-
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