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Employing Raman Spectroscopy to Qualitatively Evaluate the Purity of Carbon Single-Wall Nanotube Materials

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Carbon single-wall nanotubes (SWNTs) have highly unique electronic, mechanical and adsorption properties, making them interesting for a variety of applications. Raman spectroscopy has been demonstrated to be one of the most important methods for characterizing SWNTs. For example, Raman spectroscopy may be employed to differentiate between metallic and semi-conducting nanotubes, and may also be employed to determine SWNT diameters and even the nanotube chirality. Single-wall carbon nanotubes are generated in a variety of ways, including arc-discharge, laser vaporization and various chemical vapor deposition (CVD) techniques. In all of these methods, a metal catalyst must be employed to observe SWNT formation. Also, all of the current synthesis techniques generate various non-nanotube carbon impurities, including amorphous carbon, fullerenes, multi-wall nanotubes (MWNTs) and nano-crystalline graphite, as well as larger -sized particles of graphite. For any of the potential nanotube applications to be realized, it is, therefore, necessary that purification techniques resulting in the recovery of predominantly SWNTs at high-yields be developed. It is, of course, equally important that a method for determining nanotube wt.% purity levels be developed and standardized. Moreover, a rapid method for qualitatively measuring nanotube purity could facilitate many laboratory research efforts. This review article discusses the application of Raman spectroscopy to rapidly determine if large quantities of carbon impurities are present in nanotube materials. Raman spectra of crude SWNT materials reveal tangential bands between 1500–1600 cm-1, as well as a broad band at ~1350 cm-1, attributed to a convolution of the disorder-induced band (D-band) of carbon impurities and the D-band of the SWNTs themselves. Since the full-width-at-half-maximum (FWHM) intensity of the various carbon impurity D-bands is generally much broader than that of the nanotube D-band, an indication of the SWNT purity level may be obtained by simply examining the line-width of the D-band. We also briefly discuss the effect of nanotube bundling on SWNT Raman spectra. Finally, sections on employing Raman spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy coupled with additional techniques, to identify the separation and possible isolation of a specific nanotube within purified SWNT materials is provided. Every SWNT can be considered to be a unique molecule, with different physical properties, depending on its (n, m) indices. The production of phase-pure (n, m) SWNTs may be essential for some nanotube applications.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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  • Journal for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (JNN) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal with a wide-ranging coverage, consolidating research activities in all areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology into a single and unique reference source. JNN is the first cross-disciplinary journal to publish original full research articles, rapid communications of important new scientific and technological findings, timely state-of-the-art reviews with author's photo and short biography, and current research news encompassing the fundamental and applied research in all disciplines of science, engineering and medicine.
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