Nature Cover Story Describes Synthesis of Structurally Pure Carbon Nanotubes

For the first time, researchers at Empa and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research have succeeded in "growing" single-wall carbon nanotubes (CNT) with a single predefined structure - and hence with identical electronic properties. The success is featured on the cover of today’s (August 7, 2014) issue of Nature. And here is how the scientists pulled it off: the CNTs "assembled themselves," as it were, out of tailor-made organic precursor molecules on a platinum surface, as reported by the researchers in the Nature article. In the future, CNTs of this kind may be used in ultra-sensitive light detectors and ultra-small transistors. For 20 years, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been the subject of intensive fundamental, as well as applied research. With their extraordinary mechanical, thermal, and electronic properties, these tiny tubes with their graphitic honeycomb lattice have become the paragon of nanomaterials. They could help to create next-generation electronic and electro-optical components that are smaller than ever before, and thus can achieve even faster switching times. With a diameter of roughly one nanometer, single-wall CNTs (or SWCNTs) need to be considered as quantum structures; the slightest structural changes, such as differences in diameter or in the alignment of the atomic lattice, may result in dramatic changes to the electronic properties: one SWCNT may be metallic, whilst another one with a slightly different structure is a semiconductor. Hence, there is a great deal of interest in reliable methods of making SWCNTs as structurally uniform as possible. In fact, corresponding synthesis concepts were formulated about 15 years ago.
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