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Scientists solve mystery of colorful armchair nanotubes
Date:1/9/2012

Rice University researchers have figured out what gives armchair nanotubes their unique bright colors: hydrogen-like objects called excitons.

Their findings appear in the online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Armchair carbon nanotubes so named for the "U"-shaped configuration of the atoms at their uncapped tips are one-dimensional metals and have no band gap. This means electrons flow from one end to the other with little resistivity, the very property that may someday make armchair quantum wires possible.

The Rice researchers show armchair nanotubes absorb light like semiconductors. An electron is promoted from an immobile state to a conducting state by absorbing photons and leaving behind a positively charged "hole," said Rice physicist Junichiro Kono. The new electron-hole pair forms an exciton, which has a neutral charge.

"The excitons are created by the absorption of a particular wavelength of light," said graduate student and lead author Erik Hroz. "What your eye sees is the light that's left over; the nanotubes take a portion of the visible spectrum out." The diameter of the nanotube determines which parts of the visible spectrum are absorbed; this absorption accounts for the rainbow of colors seen among different batches of nanotubes.

Scientists have realized that gold and silver nanoparticles could be manipulated to reflect brilliant hues a property that let artisans who had no notions of "nano" create stained glass windows for medieval cathedrals. Depending on their size, the particles absorbed and emitted light of particular colors due to a phenomenon known as plasma resonance.

In more recent times, researchers noticed semiconducting nanoparticles, also known as quantum dots, show colors determined by their size-dependent band gaps.

But plasma resonance happens at wavelengths outside the visible spectrum in metallic carbon nanotubes. And armchair nanot
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Contact: David Ruth
david@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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