The surface morphology of bucky papers (BPs) made from single-walled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) is modified by plasma treatment resulting in the formation of vertical microstructures on the surface. The shapes of these structures are either pillarlike or conelike depending on whether the gas used during plasma treatment is Ar or CH4. A complex interplay between different factors, such as the electric field within the plasma sheath, polarization of the CNT, intertubular cohesive forces, and ion bombardment, result in the formation of these structures. The roles played by these factors are quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed. The final material is flexible, substrate-free, composite-free, made only of CNTs, and has discrete vertically aligned structures on its surface. It shows enhanced field emission and electrochemical charge-storage capabilities. The field enhancement factor is increased by 6.8 times, and the turn-on field drops by 3.5 times from an initial value of 0.35 to 0.1 V μm−1 as a result of the treatment. The increase in Brunauer–Emmett–Teller surface area results in about a fourfold improvement in the specific capacitance of the BP electrodes. Capacitance values before and after the treatments are 75 and 290 F g−1, respectively. It is predicted that this controlled surface modification technique could be put to good use in several applications based on macroscopic CNT films.
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