Adsorption and Diffusion of Fluids in Defective Carbon Nanotubes: Insights from Molecular Simulations

BJ Bucior and GV Kolmakov and JM Male and J Liu and DL Chen and P Kumar and JK Johnson, LANGMUIR, 33, 11834-11844 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.7b02841

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) have been shown from both simulations and experiments to have remarkably low resistance to gas and liquid transport. This has been attributed to the remarkably smooth interior surface of pristine SWNTs. However, real SWNTs are known to have various defects that depend on the synthesis method and procedure used to activate the SWNTs. In this paper, we study adsorption and transport properties of atomic and molecular fluids in SWNTs having vacancy point defects. We construct models of defective nanotubes that have either unrelaxed defects, where the overall structure of the SWNT is not changed, or reconstructed defects, where the bonding topology and therefore the shape of the SWNT is allowed to change. Furthermore, we include partial atomic charges on the SWNT carbon atoms due to the reconstructed defects. We consider adsorption and diffusion of Ar atoms and CO, and H2O molecules as examples of a noble gas, a linear quadrupolar fluid, and a polar fluid. Adsorption isotherms were found to be fairly insensitive to the defects, even for the case of water in the charged, reconstructed SWNT. We have computed both the self- diffusivities and corrected diffusivities (which are directly related to the transport diffusivities) for each of these fluids. In general, we found that at zero loading that defects can dramatically reduce the self- and corrected diffusivities. However, at high, liquidlike loadings, the self-diffusion coefficients for pristine and defective nanotubes are very similar, indicating that fluid-fluid collisions dominate the dynamics over the fluid-SWNT collisions. In contrast, the corrected diffusion coefficients can be more than an order of magnitude lower for water in defective SWNTs. This dramatic decrease in the transport diffusion is due to the formation of an ordered structure of water, which forms around a local defect site. It is therefore important to properly characterize the level and types of defects when accurate transport diffusivities are needed.

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