Entropy-driven stability of chiral single-walled carbon nanotubes

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Science  12 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6411, pp. 212-215
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6228

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The twisted carbon nanotube story

Despite progress in growing single-walled carbon nanotubes of specific size and chirality, the factors that control their growth are still not fully known. Magnin et al. developed a thermodynamic model for the growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes. The model explains the origin of nanotube chirality in terms of the configurational entropy of the nanotube edge. The model should be useful in helping to guide nanotube growth parameters to enhance selectivity.

Science, this issue p. 212


Single-walled carbon nanotubes are hollow cylinders that can grow centimeters long via carbon incorporation at the interface with a catalyst. They display semiconducting or metallic characteristics, depending on their helicity, which is determined during their growth. To support the quest for a selective synthesis, we develop a thermodynamic model that relates the tube-catalyst interfacial energies, temperature, and the resulting tube chirality. We show that nanotubes can grow chiral because of the configurational entropy of their nanometer-sized edge, thus explaining experimentally observed temperature evolutions of chiral distributions. Taking the chemical nature of the catalyst into account through interfacial energies, we derive structural maps and phase diagrams that will guide a rational choice of a catalyst and growth parameters toward a better selectivity.

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