Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Jason Deibel (Committee Member), Heather Hostetler (Committee Member), Hong Huang (Committee Member), Sharmila Mukhopadhyay (Advisor), Paul Murray (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


For a large number of applications involving surface interactions, there is an ever growing demand for materials with high specific surface area (surface area to volume ratio). Porous materials and nanomaterials offer higher specific surface area (SSA) each with their respective advantages and disadvantages. This research program is focused on bringing the two approaches together to create truly "hierarchical" materials that combine advantages of both while minimizing their disadvantages. In this study, various carbon based porous geometries were fabricated by grafting carbon nanotubes (CNT) onto highly porous reticulated carbon foams. These structures were further modified by functionalizing metal nanoparticles such as silver (Ag). Carbon as the base material provides desirable structural, thermal and electrical properties combined with environmental inertness. Silver nanoparticles have important anti-bacterial applications as well as future potential as sensors and electro-active devices. Mathematical models and fluid permeability tests were performed to enable comparison and adaptation of hierarchical porous structures for potential water treatment devices. Surface wettability was modified via liquid phase sol-gel method. Carbon nanotube grafted surfaces were coated with silica and influence of these coatings on surface wettability, fluid permeability, nanoparticle growth, and antibacterial efficiency were studied. Microstructure characterization of CNT grafted surfaces, silica modification, and nanoparticle deposition of these structures was studied using secondary (SE), backscatter (BE), and scanning transmission (STEM) electron microscopy. Chemical composition and surface chemistry of these structures were studied using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) respectively. Crystallographic studies were done using X-ray diffraction (XRD) studies. Influence of CNT grafting and silica coatings on surface wettability was studied via static contact angle measurements. The anti-bacterial performance of these materials under different types of water flow configurations were tested with gram negative E. Coli K12 bacteria. Water permeability measurements of the different surface modifications on hierarchical porous structures were performed and correlated with porous structure at micro and nano scales. This study provides a comprehensive ground work for next generation functional hierarchical materials suitable for water purification devices.

Page Count


Department or Program

Ph.D. in Engineering

Year Degree Awarded


Included in

Engineering Commons