Layer-by-Layer Electrostatic Self-Assembly of Single-Wall Carbon Nanotube Polyelectrolytes

We have used anionic and cationic single-wall carbon nanotube polyelectrolytes (SWNT-PEs), prepared by the noncovalent adsorption of ionic naphthalene or pyrene derivatives on nanotube sidewalls, for the layer-by-layer self-assembly to prepare multilayers from carbon nanotubes with polycations, such as poly(diallyldimethylammonium) or poly(allylamine hydrochloride) (PDADMA or PAH, respectively), and polyanions (poly(styrenesulfonate), PSS). This is a general and powerful technique for the fabrication of thin carbon nanotube films of arbitrary composition and architecture and allows also an easy preparation of all-SWNT (SWNT/SWNT) multilayers. The multilayers were characterized with vis−near-IR spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), surface plasmon resonance (SPR) measurements, atomic force microscopy (AFM), and imaging ellipsometry. The charge compensation in multilayers is mainly intrinsic, which shows the electrostatic nature of the self-assembly process. The multilayer growth is linear after the initial layers, and in SWNT/polyelectrolyte films it can be greatly accelerated by increasing the ionic strength in the SWNT solution. However, SWNT/SWNT multilayers are much more inert to the effect of added electrolyte. In SWNT/SWNT multilayers, the adsorption results in the deposition of 1−3 theoretical nanotube monolayers per adsorbed layer, whereas the nominal SWNT layer thickness is 2−3 times higher in SWNT/polyelectrolyte films prepared with added electrolyte. AFM images show that the multilayers contain a random network of nanotube bundles lying on the surface. Flexible polyelectrolytes (e.g., PDADMA, PSS) probably surround the nanotubes and bind them together. On macroscopic scale, the surface roughness of the multilayers depends on the components and increases with the film thickness.