Redox sorting of carbon nanotubes

Nano Lett. 2015 Mar 11;15(3):1642-6. doi: 10.1021/nl504189p. Epub 2015 Mar 2.


This work expands the redox chemistry of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) by investigating its role in a number of SWCNT sorting processes. Using a polyethylene glycol (PEG)/dextran (DX) aqueous two-phase system, we show that electron-transfer between redox molecules and SWCNTs triggers reorganization of the surfactant coating layer, leading to strong modulation of nanotube partition in the two phases. While the DX phase is thermodynamically more favored by an oxidized SWCNT mixture, the mildly reducing PEG phase is able to recover SWCNTs from oxidation and extract them successively from the DX phase. Remarkably, the extraction order follows SWCNT bandgap: semiconducting nanotubes of larger bandgap first, followed by semiconducting nanotubes of smaller bandgap, then nonarmchair metallic tubes of small but nonvanishing bandgap, and finally armchair metallic nanotubes of zero bandgap. Furthermore, we show that redox-induced surfactant reorganization is a common phenomenon, affecting nanotube buoyancy in a density gradient field, affinity to polymer matrices, and solubility in organic solvents. These findings establish redox modulation of surfactant coating structures as a general mechanism for tuning a diverse range of SWCNT sorting processes and demonstrate for the first time that armchair and nonarmchair metallic SWCNTs can be separated by their differential response to redox.

Keywords: Redox; aqueous two-phase extraction; carbon nanotube separation; surfactant coating structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.