A fascinating structural transformation occurring inside single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) is the fullerene coalescence, which is responsible for forming stable zeppelinlike carbon molecules. We report in situ transmission electron microscope ('rEM) observations revealing sequences of fullerene coalescence induced by electron irradiation on pristine nanotube peapods, together with extensive theoretical investigations of the microscopic mechanism underlying this process. TEM images indicate that the merging of fullerenes results in stable but corrugated tubules (5 to 7 Å in diameter) confined within SWNTs. These observations have been confirmed using a combination of theoretical approaches based on molecular dynamics, empirical potentials, tight-binding methods, Monte Carlo techniques, and first principles calculations. We have fully elucidated the coalescence mechanism of fullerenes inside SWNTs under electron irradiation and thermal annealing. The process occurs via the polymerization of C60 molecules followed by surface reconstruction, which can be triggered either by the formation of vacancies (created under electron irradiation) or by surface-energy minimization activated by thermal annealing. These novel tubular forms of carbon contain hexagons, pentagons, heptagons, and octagons. The stability, electronic properties, and electron conductance of the novel tubules are strongly affected by the final geometry of the coalesced fullerane complex. The possibility of forming highly conducting and semiconducting tubular structures suggests new avenues in designing carbon nanowires with specific electronic characteristics.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Mechanical Engineering