(left) Two transmission electron microscope images of a single-walled carbon nanotube with fullerenes attached to its surface (right) A fullerene/SWNT hybrid structure – a NanoBud. Credit: Esko Kauppinen, et al.
Researchers have created a hybrid carbon nanomaterial that merges single-walled carbon nanotubes and spherical carbon-atom cages called fullerenes. The new structures, dubbed NanoBuds because they resemble buds sprouting on branches, may possess properties that are superior to fullerenes and nanotubes alone.
NanoBuds may find use as cold electron field emitters – materials that emit electrons at room temperature under a high applied electric field – due to the fullerenes' many curved surfaces, which make for better emitters that flat surfaces. Cold electron field emission is key to many technologies, including flat-panel displays and electron microscopes.
“We believe that NanoBuds may have other applications, such as molecular anchors to prevent SWNTs from slipping within composite materials,” says Kauppinen. “Additionally, since the optical and electrical properties of the fullerenes and nanotubes can be individually tuned, NanoBuds provide SWNTs with distinct regions of different electrical properties. This could be useful for many applications, including memory devices and quantum dots.”