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In nanotube growth, errors are not an option
Date:6/19/2012

At the right temperature, with the right catalyst, there's no reason a perfect single-walled carbon nanotube 50,000 times thinner than a human hair can't be grown a meter long.

That calculation is one result of a study by collaborators at Rice, Hong Kong Polytechnic and Tsinghua universities who explored the self-healing mechanism that could make such extraordinary growth possible. That's important to scientists who see high-quality carbon nanotubes as critical to advanced materials and, if they can be woven into long cables, power distribution over the grid of the future.

The report published online by Physical Review Letters is by Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson; Feng Ding, an adjunct assistant professor at Rice and an assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic; lead author Qinghong Yuan, a postdoctoral researcher at Hong Kong Polytechnic; and Zhiping Xu, a professor of engineering mechanics at Tsinghua and a former postdoctoral researcher at Rice.

They determined that iron is the best and quickest among common catalysts at healing topological defects rings with too many or too few atoms that inevitably bubble up during the formation of nanotubes and affect their valuable electronic and physical properties. The right combination of factors, primarily temperature, leads to kinetic healing in which carbon atoms gone astray are redirected to form the energetically favorable hexagons that make up nanotubes and their flat cousin, graphene. The team employed density functional theory to analyze the energies necessary for the transformation.

"It is surprising that the healing of all potential defects -- pentagons, heptagons and their pairs -- during carbon nanotube growth is quite easy," said Ding, who was a research scientist in Yakobson's Rice lab from 2005 to 2009. "Only less than one-10 billionth may survive an optimum condition of growth. The rate of defect healing is amazing. If we take hexagons as goo
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Contact: David Ruth
david@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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