Phototransformation-Induced Aggregation of Functionalized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes: The Importance of Amorphous Carbon

Wen Che Hou, Chen Jing He, Yi Sheng Wang, David K. Wang, Richard G. Zepp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) with proper functionalization are desirable for applications that require dispersion in aqueous and biological environments, and functionalized SWCNTs also serve as building blocks for conjugation with specific molecules in these applications. In this study, we examined the phototransformation of carboxylated SWCNTs and associated amorphous carbon impurities in the presence or absence of H2O2 under simulated sunlight conditions. We found that while carboxylated SWCNTs were rather unreactive with respect to direct solar photolysis, they photoreacted in the presence of H2O2, forming CO2 and strongly aggregated SWCNT products that precipitated. Photoreaction caused SWCNTs to lose oxygen-containing functionalities, and interestingly, the resulting photoproducts had spectral characteristics similar to those of parent carboxylated SWCNTs whose amorphous carbon was removed by base washing. These results indicated that photoreaction of the amorphous carbon was likely involved. The removal of amorphous carbon after indirect photoreaction was confirmed with thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). Further studies using carboxylated SWCNTs with and without base washing indicate that amorphous carbon reduced the extent of aggregation caused by photoreaction. The second-order rate constant for carboxylated SWCNTs reacting with OH was estimated to be in the range of 1.7-3.8 × 109 MC-1 s-1. The modeled phototransformation half-lives fall in the range of 2.8-280 days in typical sunlit freshwaters. Our study indicates that photosensitized reactions involving OH may be a transformation and removal pathway of functionalized SWCNTs in the aquatic environment, and that the residual amorphous carbon associated with SWCNTs plays a role in SWCNT stabilization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3494-3502
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Apr 19

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Phototransformation-Induced Aggregation of Functionalized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes: The Importance of Amorphous Carbon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this