Controllable deformation of salt water-filled carbon nanotubes using an electric field with application to molecular sieving

HF Ye and YG Zheng and ZQ Zhang and HW Zhang and Z Chen, NANOTECHNOLOGY, 27, 315702 (2016).

DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/27/31/315702

Precisely controlling the deformation of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) has practical application in the development of nanoscale functional devices, although it is a challenging task. Here, we propose a novel method to guide the deformation of CNTs through filling them with salt water and applying an electric field. With the electric field along the axial direction, the height of CNTs is enlarged by the axial electric force due to the internal ions and polar water molecules. Under an electric field with two mutually orthogonal components, the transverse electric force could further induce the bending deformation of CNTs. Based on the classical rod and beam theories, two mechanical models are constructed to verify and quantitatively describe the relationships between the tension and bending deformations of CNTs and the electric field intensity. Moreover, by means of the electric field-driven tension behavior of CNTs, we design a stretchable molecular sieve to control the flow rate of mixed gas and collect a single high-purity gas. The present work opens up new avenues in the design and fabrication of nanoscale controlling units.

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