Volatile-nanoparticle-assisted optical visualization of individual carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials†
The development of nanomaterials has put forward high requirements for characterization techniques. Optical microscopy (OM), with easy accessibility and open operating spaces as compared to scanning electron microscopy, is a good choice to quickly locate materials and to be integrated with other equipment. However, OM is limited by its low resolution. Herein, we present a facile and non-destructive approach for optical observation of nanomaterials under conventional OMs with the aid of volatile nanoparticles (NPs), which can be deposited and removed in a controlled manner. The NPs deposited on the surface of nanomaterials render strong light scattering to enable the nanomaterials to become optically visible. For example, this approach enables the observation of individual carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with OMs at low magnification or even with the naked eye. Both supported CNTs on various substrates and suspended CNTs can be observed with this approach. Most importantly, the NPs can be completely removed through moderate heat treatment or laser irradiation, avoiding potential influence on the properties or subsequent applications of nanomaterials. Furthermore, we systematically investigate the deposition of various volatile NPs (up to 14 kinds) for the optical observation of nanomaterials. We also demonstrated the application of this approach on other nanomaterials, including nanowires and graphene. We showed that this approach is facile, controllable, non-destructive, and contamination-free, indicating wide potential applications.