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In situ nucleation of carbon nanotubes by the injection of carbon atoms into metal particles

Nature Nanotechnology volume 2, pages 307311 (2007) | Download Citation



The synthesis of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) of desired chiralities and diameters is one of the most important challenges in nanotube science and achieving such selectivity may require a detailed understanding of their growth mechanism. We report the formation of CNTs in an entirely condensed phase process that allows us, for the first time, to monitor the nucleation of a nanotube on the spherical surface of a metal particle. When multiwalled CNTs containing metal particle cores are irradiated with an electron beam, carbon from graphitic shells surrounding the metal particles is ingested into the body of the particle and subsequently emerges as single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) or multiwalled nanotubes (MWNTs) inside the host nanotubes. These observations, at atomic resolution in an electron microscope, show that there is direct bonding between the tubes and the metal surface from which the tubes sprout and can be readily explained by bulk diffusion of carbon through the body of catalytic particles, with no evidence of surface diffusion.

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Support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (BA 1884/4-1) and the International Max Planck Research School in Mainz (J.A.R.-M.) is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank CONACYT-Mexico for scholarship (J.A.R.-M.) and grants 45772 (M.T.), 45762 (H.T.), 42428-Inter American Collaboration (H.T.), 41464-Inter American Collaboration (M.T.), 2004-01-013-SALUD-CONACYT (M.T.) and PUE-2004-CO2-9 Fondo Mixto de Puebla (M.T.). We thank A. Elías and A. Zamudio for assistance in the preparation of the FeCo sample and A. Krasheninnikov for fruitful discussions. H.W.K. thanks The Florida State University for financial support.

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  1. Advanced Materials Department, IPICyT, Camino a la Presa San José 2055, Col. Lomas 4a. sección, 78216 San Luis Potosí, México

    • Julio A. Rodríguez-Manzo
    • , Mauricio Terrones
    •  & Humberto Terrones
  2. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-4390, USA

    • Harold W. Kroto
  3. Institut für Physikalische Chemie, Universität Mainz, 55099 Mainz, Germany

    • Litao Sun
    •  & Florian Banhart


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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Florian Banhart.

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