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NJIT chemists cook up new strain of carbon nanotubes

Kitchen chemistry is alive and well at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) as chemical researchers report cooking up a new and more water- soluble strain of carbon nanotubes. An article about this work, "Rapidly Functionalized, Water-Dispersed Carbon Nanotubes at High Concentration," appeared Jan. 11, 2006, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The team led by Somenath Mitra, PhD, acting chair and professor, department of chemistry and environmental sciences, and Iqbal Zafar, PhD, research professor in the same department, along with graduate student Yubing Wang, have developed a quick and simple method to produce water-soluble carbon nanotubes. This is something that has never been done before. They report that the new nanotubes are 125 times more water soluble than existing ones. In addition, the new nanotubes, following a short heat treatment, can conduct electricity as well as the non-soluble ones.

To achieve results the researchers added carbon nanotubes to a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid. The mixture was heated in a closed vessel microwave reactor for only three minutes. In addition, upon closer examination, the NJIT researchers found that the new solution contained concentrations of soluble nanotubes that were as high as 10mg/mL, compared with only around 0.08mg/m, reported before. The new or transformed tubes, had turned into something with salt-like characteristics. It now contained carboxylated and acid-sulfonated groups, similar to those present in acetic acid or vinegar and salts of sulfuric acid, respectively. "

"These nanotubes therefore behave as poly-electrolytes or salts of polymers," said Iqbal. "These poly-electrolytes can be dissolved in solvents such as water or even more easily in acidic water and alcohols. They will also even dissolve partially in acetone."

Why does the world need highly soluble carbon nanotubes? "There are many benefits," said Mitra. "The most obvio
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Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
sheryl.m.weinstein@njit.edu
973-596-3436
New Jersey Institute of Technology
8-Feb-2006


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