Single wall carbon nanotube amplification: en route to a type-specific growth mechanism

J Am Chem Soc. 2006 Dec 13;128(49):15824-9. doi: 10.1021/ja065767r.


With the desire to mass produce any specific n,m type of single wall carbon nanotube (SWNT) from a small sample of the same material, we disclose here the preliminary work directed toward that goal. The ultimate protocol would involve taking a single n,m-type nanotube sample, cutting the nanotubes in that sample into many short nanotubes, using each of those short nanotubes as a template for growing much longer nanotubes of the same type, and then repeating the process. The result would be an amplification of the original tube type: a parent SWNT serving as the prolific progenitor of future identical SWNT types. As a proof-of-concept, we use here a short SWNT seed as a template for vapor liquid solid (VLS) amplification growth of an individual long SWNT. The original short SWNT seed was a polymer-wrapped SWNT, end-carboxylated, and further tethered with Fe salts at its ends. The Fe salts were to act as the growth catalysts upon subsequent reductive activation. Deposition of the short SWNT-Fe tipped species upon an oxide surface was followed by heating in air to consume the polymer wrappers, then reducing the Fe salts to Fe(0) under a H2-rich atmosphere. During this heating, the Fe(0) can etch back into the short SWNT so that the short SWNT acts as a template for new growth to a long SWNT that occurs upon introduction of C2H4 as a carbon source. Analysis indicated that the templated VLS-grown long SWNT had the same diameter and surface orientation as the original short SWNT seed, although amplifying the original n,m type remains to be proven. This study could pave the way for an amplified growth process of SWNTs en route to any n,m tube type synthesis from a starting sample of pure nanotubes.