American Chemical Society
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Hygroscopic Micro/Nanolenses along Carbon Nanotube Ion Channels

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-11-04, 23:43 authored by Yun-Tae Kim, Hyegi Min, Michael S. Strano, Jae-Hee Han, Chang Young Lee
Nanolenses of alkali metal halides can be a unique optical element due to their hygroscopicity, optical transparency, and high mobility of constituent ions. It has been challenging, however, to form and place such lenses in a controlled manner. Here, we report micro/nanolenses of various alkali metal halides arranged as a one-dimensional (1D) array, using the exterior of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) as a template for forming the lenses. Applying an electrical bias to an aqueous solution of alkali metal halides placed at the end of an SWNT array causes ionic transport along the exterior of SWNTs and the subsequent formation of salt micro/nanocrystals. The crystals serve as micro/nanolenses that optically visualize individual SWNTs and amplify their Raman scattering by orders of magnitude. Molecules dissolved in the ionic solution can be electrokinetically transported along the nanotubes, captured within the lenses, and analyzed by Raman spectroscopy, which we demonstrate by detecting ∼12 attomoles of glucose and 2 femtomoles of urea. The hygroscopic salt nanolenses are robust under various ambient conditions indefinitely, by transitioning to liquid droplets above their deliquescence relative humidity, yet can be removed nondestructively by water. Our approach could have broad implications in the optical visualization of 1D nanostructures, molecular transport or chemical reactions in 1D space, and molecular spectroscopy in salty environments.