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Carbon Nanotubes as Electrically Active Nanoreactors for Multi-Step Inorganic Synthesis: Sequential Transformations of Molecules to Nanoclusters and Nanoclusters to Nanoribbons

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posted on 2016-06-03, 00:00 authored by Akos Botos, Johannes Biskupek, Thomas W. Chamberlain, Graham A. Rance, Craig T. Stoppiello, Jeremy Sloan, Zheng Liu, Kazutomo Suenaga, Ute Kaiser, Andrei N. Khlobystov
In organic synthesis, the composition and structure of products are predetermined by the reaction conditions; however, the synthesis of well-defined inorganic nanostructures often presents a significant challenge yielding nonstoichiometric or polymorphic products. In this study, confinement in the nanoscale cavities of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) provides a new approach for multistep inorganic synthesis where sequential chemical transformations take place within the same nanotube. In the first step, SWNTs donate electrons to reactant iodine molecules (I2), transforming them to iodide anions (I). These then react with metal hexacarbonyls (M­(CO)6, M = Mo or W) in the next step, yielding anionic nanoclusters [M6I14]2–, the size and composition of which are strictly dictated by the nanotube cavity, as demonstrated by aberration-corrected high resolution transmission electron microscopy, scanning transmission electron microscopy, and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. Atoms in the nanoclusters [M6I14]2– are arranged in a perfect octahedral geometry and can engage in further chemical reactions within the nanotube, either reacting with each other leading to a new polymeric phase of molybdenum iodide [Mo6I12]n or with hydrogen sulfide gas giving rise to nanoribbons of molybdenum/tungsten disulfide [MS2]n in the third step of the synthesis. Electron microscopy measurements demonstrate that the products of the multistep inorganic transformations are precisely controlled by the SWNT nanoreactor with complementary Raman spectroscopy revealing the remarkable property of SWNTs to act as a reservoir of electrons during the chemical transformation. The electron transfer from the host nanotube to the reacting guest molecules is essential for stabilizing the anionic metal iodide nanoclusters and for their further transformation to metal disulfide nanoribbons synthesized in the nanotubes in high yield.