Analysis of the reactivity and selectivity of fullerene dimerization reactions at the atomic level


High-resolution transmission electron microscopy has proved useful for its ability to provide time-resolved images of small molecules and their movements. One of the next challenges in this area is to visualize chemical reactions by monitoring time-dependent changes in the atomic positions of reacting molecules. Such images may provide information that is not available with other experimental methods. Here we report a study on bimolecular reactions of fullerene and metallofullerene molecules inside carbon nanotubes as a function of electron dose. Images of how the fullerenes move during the dimerization process reveal the specific orientations in which two molecules interact, as well as how bond reorganization occurs after their initial contact. Studies on the concentration, specimen temperature, effect of catalyst and accelerating voltage indicate that the reactions can be imaged under a variety of conditions.

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Figure 1: A series of high-resolution images of C60 molecules gradually bonded and finally fused with accumulated electron dose.
Figure 2: Orientation and concentration of fullerene molecules within the carbon nanotubes and implications for their reactions.
Figure 3: Temperature dependence on electron-induced transformations in fullerene peapods at 120 kV.
Figure 4: Effect of accelerating voltage and applications of low-voltage imaging.


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We acknowledge Drs I. Ishikawa and Y. Kondo at JEOL for the development of cryo-TEM, and Ms N. Kibe at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology for the access to a field-emission scanning electron microscope instrument. This study was partly supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (KAKENHI (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research) 21710116 to M.K, 18201017 to H.K., 18655012 to E.N. and 19054017 to K.S.), Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) (K.S.), and Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology, JST (M.K. and E.N.).

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M.K. conceived and designed the experiments, and prepared the fullerene peapod samples. TEM measurements and their analysis were performed by M.K. and Y.N. H.K. synthesized the nanotubes by laser ablation. T.O. contributed fullerene and metallofullerene materials, and prepared the C82, La@C82 and Er@C82 peapods. The development of an aberration-corrected TEM at 80 kV was supervised by K.S. and S.I. The helium-stage TEM with aberration corrector was supervised by K.S. and E.N. M.K., K.S. and E.N. co-wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Masanori Koshino.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Koshino, M., Niimi, Y., Nakamura, E. et al. Analysis of the reactivity and selectivity of fullerene dimerization reactions at the atomic level. Nature Chem 2, 117–124 (2010).

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