Controlling defect-state photophysics in covalently functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes

Brendan J. Gifford, Svetlana Kilina, Han Htoon, Stephen K. Doorn, Sergei Tretiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


ConspectusSingle-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) show promise as light sources for modern fiber optical communications due to their emission wavelengths tunable via chirality and diameter dependency. However, the emission quantum yields are relatively low owing to the existence of low-lying dark electronic states and fast excitonic diffusion leading to carrier quenching at defects. Covalent functionalization of SWCNTs addresses this problem by brightening their infrared emission. Namely, introduction of sp3-hybridized defects makes the lowest energy transitions optically active for some defect geometries and enables further control of their optical properties. Such functionalized SWCNTs are currently the only material exhibiting room-temperature single photon emission at telecom relevant infrared wavelengths. While this fluorescence is strong and has the right wavelength, functionalization introduces a variety of emission peaks resulting in spectrally broad inhomogeneous photoluminescence that prohibits the use of SWCNTs in practical applications. Consequently, there is a strong need to control the emission diversity in order to render these materials useful for applications. Recent experimental and computational work has attributed the emissive diversity to the presence of multiple localized defect geometries each resulting in distinct emission energy. This Account outlines methods by which the morphology of the defect in functionalized SWCNTs can be controlled to reduce emissive diversity and to tune the fluorescence wavelengths. The chirality-dependent trends of emission energies with respect to individual defect morphologies are explored. It is demonstrated that defect geometries originating from functionalization of SWCNT carbon atoms along bonds with strong π-orbital mismatch are favorable. Furthermore, the effect of controlling the defect itself through use of different chemical groups is also discussed. Such tunability is enabled due to the formation of specific defect geometries in close proximity to other existing defects. This takes advantage of the changes in π-orbital mismatch enforced by existing defects and the resulting changes in reactivities toward formation of specific defect morphologies. Furthermore, the trends in emissive energies are highly dependent on the value of mod(n-m,3) for an (n,m) tube chirality. These powerful concepts allow for a targeted formation of defects that emit at desired energies based on SWCNT single chirality enriched samples. Finally, the impact of functionalization with specific types of defects that enforce certain defect geometries due to steric constraints in bond lengths and angles to the SWCNT are discussed. We further relate to a similar effect that is present in systems where high density of surface defects is formed due to high reactant concentration. The outlined strategies suggested by simulations are instrumental in guiding experimental efforts toward the generation of functionalized SWCNTs with tunable emission energies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1791-1801
Number of pages11
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


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