Fundamental insights into the reductive covalent cross-linking of single-walled carbon nanotubes
Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) have been covalently cross-linked via a reductive functionalization pathway, utilizing negatively charged carbon nanotubides (KC4). We have compared the use of difunctional linkers acting as molecular pillars between the nanotubes, namely, p-diiodobenzene, p-diiodobiphenyl, benzene-4,4'-bis(diazonium), and 1,1'-biphenyl-4,4'-bis(diazonium) salts as electrophiles. We have employed statistical Raman spectroscopy (SRS), a forefront characterization tool consisting of thermogravimetric analysis coupled with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (TG-GC-MS) and aberration-corrected high-resolution transmission electron microscopy imaging series at 80 kV to unambiguously demonstrate the covalent binding of the molecular linkers. The present study shows that the SWCNT functionalization using iodide derivatives leads to the best results in terms of bulk functionalization homogeneity (Hbulk) and degree of addition. Phenylene linkers yield the highest degree of functionalization, whereas biphenylene units induce a higher surface area with an increase in the thermal stability and an improved electrochemical performance in the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). This work illustrates the importance of molecular engineering in the design of novel functional materials and provides important insights into the understanding of basic principles of reductive cross-linking of carbon nanotubes.