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Nat Nanotechnol. 2009 Dec;4(12):830-4. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2009.302. Epub 2009 Nov 1.

True solutions of single-walled carbon nanotubes for assembly into macroscopic materials.

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Richard E Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, USA.


Translating the unique characteristics of individual single-walled carbon nanotubes into macroscopic materials such as fibres and sheets has been hindered by ineffective assembly. Fluid-phase assembly is particularly attractive, but the ability to dissolve nanotubes in solvents has eluded researchers for over a decade. Here, we show that single-walled nanotubes form true thermodynamic solutions in superacids, and report the full phase diagram, allowing the rational design of fluid-phase assembly processes. Single-walled nanotubes dissolve spontaneously in chlorosulphonic acid at weight concentrations of up to 0.5 wt%, 1,000 times higher than previously reported in other acids. At higher concentrations, they form liquid-crystal phases that can be readily processed into fibres and sheets of controlled morphology. These results lay the foundation for bottom-up assembly of nanotubes and nanorods into functional materials.

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