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Easily made and handled carbon nanocones for scanning tunneling microscopy and electroanalysis

Sripirom, Jiyapa, Noor, Sani, Köhler, Ulrich, Schulte, Albert
Carbon 2011 v.49 no.7 pp. 2402-2412
air, carbon nanotubes, electrochemistry, gold, graphene, image analysis, insulating materials, laboratory equipment, scanning tunneling microscopy, silicon, sodium hydroxide, topography
Well-formed carbon nanocones at the ends of micrometer-diameter carbon fibers (CFs) were fashioned into functional tips for scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and miniaturized voltammetric sensors. Sharpening of single graphite filaments was achieved by simple DC electrochemical etching in 0.1N NaOH. Operated as STM tips, pointed CFs resolved in air the contour and surface morphology of a nanoscopic Au line pattern and imaged in vacuum a Si (111) surface with clear atomic resolution. Subjecting already etched CFs to tip-sparing insulation with electrodeposited paint produced conical carbon ultramicroelectrodes (UMEs) with effective radii down to about 900nm. Comparative cyclic voltammetry trials in alkaline, neutral and acidic solutions showed that the conical carbon UME’s had a wider practical potential window for electroanalytic applications than, for instance, Pt disk UMEs. The CF-based conical sensors described here are exceptionally easy to make with simple laboratory equipment and perform well in STM topography imaging and voltammetry. The inherent simplicity of sensor production widens the field of potential users, and offers clear advantages over existing types of UMEs, in particular those based on carbon nanotubes, which are especially hard to handle in an optical microscope setting.