Growing highly pure semiconducting carbon nanotubes by electrotwisting the helicity

Article metrics


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are anticipated to be the successor of silicon in next-generation integrated circuits. However, one great challenge to the practical application of this concept is the need to grow horizontal semiconducting CNT arrays with very high purity. Here we show that this roadblock can be eliminated by switching the direction of an applied electric field during synthesis. This electro-renucleation approach twists the chirality of the CNTs to produce nearly defect-free s-CNTs horizontally aligned on the substrate with less than 0.1% residual metallic CNT. In principle, this residual percentage can be further reduced to less than 1 ppm simply by tuning the CNTs’ diameters to around 1.3 nm. Electro-renucleation thus offers a potential pathway to practical applications of CNT electronics and opens up a new avenue for large-scale selective synthesis of semiconducting CNTs and other nanomaterials.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Controllably twisting the chirality of CNTs from metallic to semiconducting.
Fig. 2: High-purity s-CNT array grown by ERN method.
Fig. 3: FET fabricated on ERN-grown s-CNT array.
Fig. 4: Raman characterization of ERN-grown s-CNT array.


  1. 1.

    De Volder, M. F., Tawfick, S. H., Baughman, R. H. & Hart, A. J. Carbon nanotubes: present and future commercial applications. Science 339, 535–539 (2013).

  2. 2.

    Bachtold, A., Hadley, P., Nakanishi, T. & Dekker, C. Logic circuits with carbon nanotube transistors. Science 294, 1317–1320 (2001).

  3. 3.

    Shulaker, M. M. et al. Carbon nanotube computer. Nature 501, 526–530 (2013).

  4. 4.

    Shulaker, M. M. et al. Three-dimensional integration of nanotechnologies for computing and data storage on a single chip. Nature 547, 74–78 (2017).

  5. 5.

    Qiu, C. et al. Scaling carbon nanotube complementary transistors to 5-nm gate lengths. Science 355, 271–276 (2017).

  6. 6.

    Cao, Q., Tersoff, J., Farmer, D. B., Zhu, Y. & Han, S. J. Carbon nanotube transistors scaled to a 40-nanometer footprint. Science 356, 1369–1372 (2017).

  7. 7.

    Franklin, A. D. The road to carbon nanotube transistors. Nature 498, 443–444 (2013).

  8. 8.

    Arnold, M. S., Green, A. A., Hulvat, J. F., Stupp, S. I. & Hersam, M. C. Sorting carbon nanotubes by electronic structure using density differentiation. Nat. Nanotechnol. 1, 60–65 (2006).

  9. 9.

    Tu, X., Manohar, S., Jagota, A. & Zheng, M. DNA sequence motifs for structure-specific recognition and separation of carbon nanotubes. Nature 460, 250–253 (2009).

  10. 10.

    Zhou, W., Ding, L., Yang, S. & Liu, J. Synthesis of high-density, large-diameter, and aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes by multiple-cycle growth methods. ACS Nano 5, 3849–3857 (2011).

  11. 11.

    Kang, L., Zhang, S., Li, Q. & Zhang, J. Growth of horizontal semiconducting SWNT arrays with density higher than 100 tubes/mum using ethanol/methane chemical vapor deposition. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 138, 6727–6730 (2016).

  12. 12.

    Hong, G. et al. Direct growth of semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotube array. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131, 14642–14643 (2009).

  13. 13.

    Ding, L. et al. Selective growth of well-aligned semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotubes. Nano Lett. 9, 800–805 (2009).

  14. 14.

    Liu, B. et al. Nearly exclusive growth of small diameter semiconducting single-wall carbon nanotubes from organic chemistry synthetic end-cap molecules. Nano Lett. 15, 586–595 (2015).

  15. 15.

    Zhang, S., Tong, L., Hu, Y., Kang, L. & Zhang, J. Diameter-specific growth of semiconducting SWNT arrays using uniform Mo2C solid catalyst. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 137, 8904–8907 (2015).

  16. 16.

    Zhang, S. et al. Selective scission of C–O and C–C bonds in ethanol using bimetal catalysts for the preferential growth of semiconducting SWNT arrays. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 137, 1012–1015 (2015).

  17. 17.

    Qin, X. et al. Growth of semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotubes by using ceria as catalyst supports. Nano Lett. 14, 512–517 (2014).

  18. 18.

    Kang, L. et al. Growth of close-packed semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotube arrays using oxygen-deficient TiO2 nanoparticles as catalysts. Nano Lett. 15, 403–409 (2015).

  19. 19.

    Yang, F. et al. Water-assisted preparation of high-purity semiconducting (14,4) carbon nanotubes. ACS Nano 11, 186–193 (2017).

  20. 20.

    Ding, F., Harutyunyan, A. R. & Yakobson, B. I. Dislocation theory of chirality-controlled nanotube growth. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 2506–2509 (2009).

  21. 21.

    Liu, B., Wu, F., Gui, H., Zheng, M. & Zhou, C. Chirality-controlled synthesis and applications of single-wall carbon nanotubes. ACS Nano 11, 31–53 (2017).

  22. 22.

    Zhu, Z. et al. Acoustic-assisted assembly of an individual monochromatic ultralong carbon nanotube for high on-current transistors. Sci. Adv. 2, e1601572 (2016).

  23. 23.

    Zhang, S. et al. Arrays of horizontal carbon nanotubes of controlled chirality grown using designed catalysts. Nature 543, 234–238 (2017).

  24. 24.

    Yang, F. et al. Chirality-specific growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes on solid alloy catalysts. Nature 510, 522–524 (2014).

  25. 25.

    Sanchez-Valencia, J. R. et al. Controlled synthesis of single-chirality carbon nanotubes. Nature 512, 61–64 (2014).

  26. 26.

    Zhao, Q., Xu, Z., Hu, Y., Ding, F. & Zhang, J. Chemical vapor deposition synthesis of near-zigzag single-walled carbon nanotubes with stable tube-catalyst interface. Sci. Adv. 2, e1501729 (2016).

  27. 27.

    Han, J., Anantram, M. P., Jaffe, R. L., Kong, J. & Dai, H. Observation and modeling of single-wall carbon nanotube bend junctions. Phys. Rev. B 57, 14983–14989 (1998).

  28. 28.

    Yao, Y. et al. Temperature-mediated growth of single-walled carbon-nanotube intramolecular junctions. Nat. Mater. 6, 283–286 (2007).

  29. 29.

    Wang, J. et al. Observation of charge generation and transfer during CVD growth of carbon nanotubes. Nano Lett. 16, 4102–4109 (2016).

  30. 30.

    Nasibulin, A. G. et al. Charging of aerosol products during ferrocene vapor decomposition in N2 and CO atmospheres. J. Phys. Chem. C 112, 5762–5769 (2008).

  31. 31.

    Gonzalez, D. et al. Single-walled carbon nanotube charging during bundling process in the gas phase. Phys. Status Solidi. 243, 3234–3237 (2006).

  32. 32.

    Gonzalez, D. et al. Spontaneous charging of single-walled carbon nanotubes in the gas phase. Carbon 44, 2099–2101 (2006).

  33. 33.

    Gonzalez, D. et al. Spontaneous charging of single-walled carbon nanotubes: a novel strategy for the selective substrate deposition of individual tubes at ambient temperature. Chem. Mater. 18, 5052–5057 (2006).

  34. 34.

    Xiao, J. et al. Alignment controlled growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes on quartz substrates. Nano Lett. 9, 4311–4319 (2009).

  35. 35.

    Ellison, G. B., Engelking, P. C. & Lineberger, W. C. An experimental determination of the geometry and electron affinity of CH3. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 100, 2556–2558 (1978).

  36. 36.

    Zittel, P. F. et al. Laser photoelectron spectrometry of CH2 . Singlet–triplet splitting and electron affinity of CH2. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 98, 3731–3732 (1976).

  37. 37.

    Dresselhaus, M. S., Dresselhaus, G., Jorio, A., Souza Filho, A. G. & Saito, R. Raman spectroscopy on isolated single wall carbon nanotubes. Carbon 40, 2043–2061 (2002).

  38. 38.

    He, Y. et al. Evaluating bandgap distributions of carbon nanotubes via scanning electron microscopy imaging of the Schottky barriers. Nano Lett. 13, 5556–5562 (2013).

  39. 39.

    Li, J. et al. Direct identification of metallic and semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotubes in scanning electron microscopy. Nano Lett. 12, 4095–4101 (2012).

  40. 40.

    Li, D. et al. Direct discrimination between semiconducting and metallic single-walled carbon nanotubes with high spatial resolution by SEM. Nano Res. 10, 1896–1902 (2016).

  41. 41.

    Li, D. et al. Scanning electron microscopy imaging of single-walled carbon nanotubes on substrates. Nano Res. 10, 1804–1818 (2017).

  42. 42.

    Lu, W. et al. Contactless haracterization of electronic properties of nanomaterials using dielectric force microscopy. J. Phys. Chem. C. 116, 7158–7163 (2012).

  43. 43.

    Wang, X. et al. Fabrication of ultralong and electrically uniform single-walled carbon nanotubes on clean substrates. Nano Lett. 9, 3137–3141 (2009).

  44. 44.

    Jian, M. et al. Volatile-nanoparticle-assisted optical visualization of individual carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials. Nanoscale 8, 13437–13444 (2016).

  45. 45.

    KANG, S. J. et al. High-performance electronics using dense, perfectly aligned arrays of single-walled carbon nanotubes. Nat. Nanotechnol. 2, 230–236 (2007).

  46. 46.

    Parveen, S., Kumar, A., Husain, S. & Husain, M. Fowler Nordheim theory of carbon nanotube based field emitters. Physica B 505, 1–8 (2017).

Download references


We are grateful to L. Peng (Peking University), Y. Zhang (Tsinghua University), F. Ding (Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Korea), Y. Xu (Tsinghua University, China) and X. Feng (University of Central Florida, USA) for discussions. This work is financially supported by the Basic Science Center Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) under grant no. 51788104, the NSFC (51727805, 51672152, 51472141), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFA0205800) and the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Future Chips (ICFC). Q. Ji and J. Kong acknowledge support from the STC Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, NSF grant DMR-1231319.

Author information

J.W., X.J., Z.L., Z.Y. and H.W. contributed to experimental setup establishment. J.W., Z.L., G.Y. and J.L. contributed to CNT growth. J.W., P.L, J.K., Y.Wu, Y.Wei and K.J. contributed to theoretical analysis. J.W., J.Z., K.Z. and D.L. contributed to FET fabrication. J.W. contributed to Raman experiments. All authors discussed the results and wrote the paper.

Correspondence to Peng Liu or Jing Kong or Kaili Jiang.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisherʼs note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–3, Supplementary Figs. 1–16

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Further reading