Why nanotubes grow chiral

VI Artyukhov and ES Penev and BI Yakobson, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 5, 4892 (2014).

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5892

Carbon nanotubes hold enormous technological promise. It can only be harnessed if one controls their chirality, the feature of the tubular carbon topology that governs all the properties of nanotubes-electronic, optical, mechanical. Experiments in catalytic growth over the last decade have repeatedly revealed a puzzling strong preference towards minimally chiral (near-armchair) tubes, challenging any existing hypotheses and making chirality control ever more tantalizing, yet leaving its understanding elusive. Here we combine the nanotube/catalyst interface thermodynamics with the kinetic growth theory to show that the unusual near-armchair peaks emerge from the two antagonistic trends at the interface: energetic preference towards achiral versus the faster growth kinetics of chiral nanotubes. This narrow distribution is inherently related to the peaked behaviour of a simple function, xe(-x).

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