Threading carbon nanotubes through a self-assembled nanotube†
Achieving the co-assembly of more than one component represents an important challenge in the drive to create functional self-assembled nanomaterials. Multicomponent nanomaterials comprised of several discrete, spatially sorted domains of components with high degrees of internal order are particularly important for applications such as optoelectronics. In this work, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) were threaded through the inner channel of nanotubes formed by the bolaamphiphilic self-assembly of a naphthalenediimide-lysine (NDI-Bola) monomer. The self-assembly process was driven by electrostatic interactions, as indicated by ζ-potential measurements, and cation–π interactions between the surface of the SWNT and the positively charged, NDI-Bola nanotube interior. To increase the threading efficiency, the NDI-Bola nanotubes were fragmented into shortened segments with lengths of <100 nm via sonication-induced shear, prior to co-assembly with the SWNTs. The threading process created an initial composite nanostructure in which the SWNTs were threaded by multiple, shortened segments of the NDI-Bola nanotube that progressively re-elongated along the SWNT surface into a continuous radial coating around the SWNT. The resultant composite structure displayed NDI-Bola wall thicknesses twice that of the parent nanotube, reflecting a bilayer wall structure, as compared to the monolayer structure of the parent NDI-Bola nanotube. As a final, co-axial outer layer, poly(p-phenyleneethynylene) (PPE-SO3Na, MW = 5.76 × 104, PDI – 1.11) was wrapped around the SWNT/NDI-Bola composite resulting in a three-component (SWNT/NDI-Bola/PPE-SO3Na) composite nanostructure.