Reversible dispersion and release of carbon nanotubes via cooperative clamping interactions with hydrogen-bonded nanorings
Due to their outstanding electronic and mechanical properties, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) are promising nanomaterials for the future generation of optoelectronic devices and composites. However, their scarce solubility limits their application in many technologies that demand solution-processing of high-purity SWCNT samples. Although some non-covalent functionalization approaches have demonstrated their utility in extracting SWCNTs into different media, many of them produce short-lived dispersions or ultimately suffer from contamination by the dispersing agent. Here, we introduce an unprecedented strategy that relies on a cooperative clamping process. When mixing (6,5)SWCNTs with a dinucleoside monomer that is able to self-assemble in nanorings via Watson–Crick base-pairing, a synergistic relationship is established. On one hand, the H-bonded rings are able to associate intimately with SWCNTs by embracing the tube sidewalls, which allows for an efficient SWCNT debundling and for the production of long-lasting SWCNT dispersions of high optical quality along a broad concentration range. On the other, nanoring stability is enhanced in the presence of SWCNTs, which are suitable guests for the ring cavity and contribute to the establishment of multiple cooperative noncovalent interactions. The inhibition of these reversible interactions, by just adding, for instance, a competing solvent for hydrogen-bonding, proved to be a simple and effective method to recover the pristine nanomaterial with no trace of the dispersing agent.