Nonuniform functional group distribution of carbon nanotubes studied by energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry imaging in SEM†
Functionalization is a key technique to improving the dispersibility of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in solvents and polymer matrices for producing versatile CNT-based materials. Therefore, a robust and efficient characterization method is required to confirm that the functionalization on the CNT surface is spatially uniform. Although several imaging techniques for transmission electron microscopes can characterize the spatial localization of elements chemically bound to an isolated CNT surface, they are unsuitable for examinations on a practical scale because of their limited scanning area. Here, we present high spatially resolved energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) imaging of functionalized single-walled CNTs (SWCNTs) in scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Highly sensitive EDS detection and drift-free operation enables our technique to image the light elements of SWCNTs with sufficient spatial resolution (<10 nm). We describe an experimental visualization of the spatial distribution of the functionalization on individual SWCNT bundle structures and discuss the CNT de-bundling mechanism via surface modification and the uniformity of the CNT dispersion state.