Dimensionality is known to play a key role in the solution behavior of nano- and mesoparticles. In particular, the shape and the range of the attractive van der Waals interparticle potential are determined by the number of microscopic versus mesoscopic dimensions. For single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs), where two of the dimensions are nanoscopic and one is mesoscopic, the intertube attraction is relatively short ranged, albeit very steep. The very large attraction (compared to the thermal energy, KbT) among long SWNTs leads to aggregation at different levels and constitutes a major barrier for manipulation and utilization of SWNTs. This study demonstrates that it is possible to shape the intertube potential by decorating SWNTs with end-tethered polymers. In good solvent conditions for the polymers, entropic repulsion among the tethered chains generates a free energy barrier that prevents SWNTs from approaching the attractive part of the intertube potential. Consequentially, stable dispersions of individual, well separated SWNTs can be prepared. Investigation of different chain lengths and tethering densities of the polymers as well as the interparticle potentials for nanometric versus mesoscopic particles suggests that polymer-induced steric stabilization provides a generic method for separation of SWNTs from mixtures of colloidal species, as demonstrated experimentally.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry