Polycrystalline Fe-doped alumina (Al2O3) ceramics have been produced and used as a substrate for organized carbon nanotubes (CNTs) growth by catalytic chemical vapor deposition (CCVD). In these substrates, Fe3+ cations, which are the catalyst source, are initially substituted to Al3+ in alpha-Al2O3, instead of being simply deposited as a thin Fe layer on the surface of the substrate. The selective reduction of these substrates resulted in in situ formation of homogeneously distributed Fe nanoparticles forming patterns at nanometer-scale steps and kinks. These nanoparticles then catalyzed the growth of high quality CNTs, with some degree of organization thanks to their interaction with the topography of the substrate. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.