Confined propagation of covalent chemical reactions on single-walled carbon nanotubes

Shunliu Deng, Yin Zhang, Alexandra H. Brozena, Maricris Lodriguito Mayes, Parag Banerjee, Wen An Chiou, Gary W. Rubloff, George C. Schatz, Yuhuang Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Scopus citations


Covalent chemistry typically occurs randomly on the graphene lattice of a carbon nanotube because electrons are delocalized over thousands of atomic sites, and rapidly destroys the electrical and optical properties of the nanotube. Here we show that the Billups-Birch reductive alkylation, a variant of the nearly century-old Birch reduction, occurs on single-walled carbon nanotubes by defect activation and propagates exclusively from sp 3 defect sites, with an estimated probability more than 1,300 times higher than otherwise random bonding to the 'π-electron sea'. This mechanism quickly leads to confinement of the reaction fronts in the tubular direction. The confinement gives rise to a series of interesting phenomena, including clustered distributions of the functional groups and a constant propagation rate of 18 ±6 nm per reaction cycle that allows straightforward control of the spatial pattern of functional groups on the nanometre length scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number382
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 19 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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    Deng, S., Zhang, Y., Brozena, A. H., Mayes, M. L., Banerjee, P., Chiou, W. A., Rubloff, G. W., Schatz, G. C., & Wang, Y. (2011). Confined propagation of covalent chemical reactions on single-walled carbon nanotubes. Nature communications, 2(1), [382].