Materials science

The smallest carbon nanotube

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Abstract

We report here the discovery of the smallest possible carbon nanotube. This has a diameter of 4 Å, which is the narrowest attainable that can still remain energetically stable, as predicted by theory. These nanotubes are confined inside multiwalled carbon nanotubes and their diameter corresponds to that of a C20 dodecahedron with a single carbon atom at each of its twenty apices. Unlike larger carbon nanotubes, which, depending on their diameter and helicity, can be either metallic or semiconducting, these smallest nanotubes are always metallic.

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Figure 1: High-resolution electron microscope image of a 4 Å tubule (side walls are marked by lines) confined inside an 18-shell carbon nanotube.

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Correspondence to Lu-Chang Qin.

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