A biologically inspired method has been developed for (1) separating single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) from other materials (principally, amorphous carbon and metal catalysts) in raw production batches and (2) dispersing the SWCNTs as individual particles (in contradistinction to ropes and bundles) in suspension, as required for a number of applications. Prior methods of purification and dispersal of SWCNTs involve, variously, harsh physical processes (e.g., sonication) or harsh chemical processes (e.g., acid reflux). These processes do not completely remove the undesired materials and do not disperse bundles and ropes into individual suspended SWCNTs. Moreover, these processes cut long SWCNTs into shorter pieces, yielding typical nanotube lengths between 150 and 250 nm.
In contrast, the present method does not involve harsh physical or chemical processes. The method involves the use of biologically derived dispersal agents (BDDAs) in an aqueous solution that is mechanically homogenized (but not sonicated) and centrifuged. The dense solid material remaining after centrifugation is resuspended by vortexing in distilled water, yielding an aqueous suspension of individual, separated SWCNTs having lengths from about 10 to about 15 μm.
This work was done by Daniel L. Feeback of Johnson Space Center, Mark S. F. Clarke of University Space Research Association, and Pavel Nikolaev of GB Tech Inc.
In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:
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Refer to MSC-23322-1, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.