Polymer Science Faculty Research

Comparison of the quality of aqueous dispersions of single wall carbon nanotubes using surfactants and biomolecules

Matthew Becker


The use of single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) in current and future applications depends on the ability to process SWCNTs in a solvent to yield high-quality dispersions characterized by individual SWCNTs and possessing a minimum of SWCNT bundles. Many approaches for the dispersion of SWCNTs have been reported. However, there is no general assessment which compares the relative quality and dispersion efficiency of the respective methods. Herein we report a quantitative comparison of the relative ability of "wrapping polymers" including oligonucleotides, peptides, lignin, chitosan, and cellulose and surfactants such as cholates, ionic liquids, and organosulfates to disperse SWCNTs in water. Optical absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy provide quantitative characterization (amount of SWCNTs that can be suspended by a given surfactant and its ability to debundle SWCNTs) of these suspensions. Sodium deoxy cholate (SDOCO), oligonucleotides (GT)(15), (GT)(10), (AC)(15), (AC)(10), C(10-30), and carboxymethylcellulose (CBMC-250K) exhibited the highest quality suspensions of the various systems studied in this work. The information presented here provides a good framework for further study of SWCNT purification and applications.