Carbon Nanotubes, Unzipped

Like folding paper to make a tear neater, doping carbon nanotubes makes it easier to unzip them without damaging their nanostructure.

AsianScientist (Apr. 1, 2016) – Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have developed a technique which allows them to unzip graphene nanotubes while avoiding uncontrollable damage. Their findings have been published in Nature Communications.

Graphene is a form of carbon in which its atoms form a honey-comb structure through chemical bonding. If this structure can be cut to a desired form, other nanostructured carbon materials can be created. Many researchers have tried to obtain the accurate unzipping of graphene structures, but faced challenges doing so.

To break a very strong bond between carbon atoms, an equivalently strong chemical reaction must be induced. Unfortunately, currently used chemical reactions not only cut out the desirable borders, but also damage the surrounding ones.

To solve this problem, the research team adopted a technique known as heteroatom doping. The idea is analogous to tearing a sheet of paper following a groove folded onto the sheet. After making some regions of the structure unstable by doping other atoms such as nitrogen on a carbon plane, the regions are electrochemically stimulated to split the parts.

The researchers were able to have fine control over the amount of unzipping graphene by adjusting the amount of heteroatom dopants. Using this technique, they were able to create high quality nano graphene without any damage in its two-dimensional crystalline structure.

Furthermore, by combining the nano graphene with polymer, metal and semiconductor nanomolecules to form carbon composites, the researchers were able to develop a capacitor with high energy transfer speed.

“In order to commercialize this technique, heteroatom doping should be researched further. We plan to develop fabric-like carbon materials with excellent mechanical and electrical properties using this technique,” said study corresponding author Professor Kim Sang-Wook.

The article can be found at: Lim et al. (2016) Dopant-Specific Unzipping of Carbon Nanotubes for Intact Crystalline Graphene Nanostructures.


Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
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