Nanocatalyst structure as a template to define chirality of nascent single-walled carbon nanotubes. Academic Article uri icon


  • Chirality is a crucial factor in a single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) because it determines its optical and electronic properties. A chiral angle spanning from 0 to 30 results from twisting of the graphene sheet conforming the nanotube wall and is equivalently expressed by chiral indexes (n,m). However, lack of chirality control during SWCNT synthesis is an obstacle for a widespread use of these materials. Here we use first-principles density functional theory (DFT) and classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to propose and illustrate basic concepts supporting that the nanocatalyst structure may act as a template to control the chirality during nanotube synthesis. DFT optimizations of metal cluster (Co and Cu)cap systems for caps of various chiralities are used to show that an inverse template effect from the nascent carbon nanostructure over the catalyst may exist in floating catalysts; such effect determines a negligible chirality control. Classical MD simulations are used to investigate the influence of a strongly interacting substrate on the structure of a metal nanocatalyst and illustrate how such interaction may help preserve catalyst crystallinity. Finally, DFT optimizations of carbon structures on stepped (211) and (321) cobalt surfaces are used to demonstrate the template effect imparted by the nanocatalyst surface on the growing carbon structure at early stages of nucleation. It is found that depending on the step structure and type of building block (short chains, single atoms, or hexagonal rings), thermodynamics favor armchair or zigzag termination, which provides guidelines for a chirality controlled process based on tuning the catalyst structure and the type of precursor gas.

published proceedings

  • J Chem Phys

author list (cited authors)

  • Gmez-Gualdrn, D. A., Zhao, J., & Balbuena, P. B.

citation count

  • 37

complete list of authors

  • Gómez-Gualdrón, Diego A||Zhao, Jin||Balbuena, Perla B

publication date

  • January 2011