Breaking the Axis-Symmetry of a Single-Wall Carbon Nanotube During Its Growth

Lili Zhang*, Ziwei Xu, Tian liang Feng, Maoshuai He, Thomas Willum Hansen, Jakob Birkedal Wagner, Chang Liu*, Hui Ming Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

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The asymmetrical growth of a single-wall carbon nanotube (SWCNT) by introducing a change of a local atomic structure, is usually inevitable and supposed to have a profound effect on the chirality control and property tailor. However, the breaking of the symmetry during SWCNT growth remains unexplored and its origins at the atomic-scale are elusive. Here, environmental transmission electron microscopy is used to capture the process of breaking the symmetry of a growing SWCNT from a sub-2-nm platinum catalyst nanoparticle in real-time, demonstrating that topological defects formed on the side of a SWCNT can serve as a buffer for stress release and inherently break its axis-symmetrical growth. Atomic-level details reveal the importance of the tube-catalyst interface and how the atom rearrangement of the solid-state platinum catalyst around the interface influences the final tubular structure. The active sites responsible for trapping carbon dimers and providing enough driving force for carbon incorporation and asymmetric growth are shown to be low-coordination step edges, as confirmed by theoretical simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2304905
JournalAdvanced Science
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Carbon nanotubes
  • Environmental TEM
  • Growth mechanism
  • Interface interaction
  • Symmetry breaking


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