Single-walled carbon nanotube reptation dynamics in submicron sized pores from randomly packed mono-sized colloids†
Studying the Brownian motion of fibers and semi-flexible filaments in porous media is the key to understanding the transport and mechanical properties in a variety of systems. The motion of semi-flexible filaments in gel-like porous media including polymer networks and cell cytoskeleton has been studied theoretically and experimentally, whereas the motion of these materials in packed-colloid porous media, advanced foams, and rock-like systems has not been thoroughly studied. Here we use video microscopy to directly visualize the reptation and transport of intrinsically fluorescent, semiflexible, semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) in the sub-micron pores of packed colloids as fixed obstacles of packed-colloid porous media. By visualizing the filament motion and Brownian diffusion at different locations in the pore structures, we study how the properties of the environment, like the pore shape and pore structure of the porous media, affect SWCNT mobility. These results show that the porous media structure controls SWCNT reorientation during Brownian diffusion. In packed-colloid pores, SWCNTs diffuse along straight pores and bend across pores; conversely, in gel pores, SWCNTs consistently diffuse into curved pores, displaying a faster parallel motion. In both gel and packed-colloid porous media, SWCNT finite stiffness enhances SWCNT rotational diffusion and prevents jamming, allowing for inter-pore diffusion.