Enhanced ordering in length-polydisperse carbon nanotube solutions at high concentrations as revealed by small angle X-ray scattering

V. Jamali, Francesca Mirri, E.G. Biggers, Robert Pinnick, Lucy Liberman, Yachin Cohen, Yeshayahu Talmon, Fred C. MacKintosh, Paul P.A.M. van der Schoot, Matteo Pasquali (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are stiff, all-carbon macromolecules with diameters as small as one nanometer and few microns long. Solutions of CNTs in chlorosulfonic acid (CSA) follow the phase behavior of rigid rod polymers interacting via a repulsive potential and display a liquid crystalline phase at sufficiently high concentration. Here, we show that small-angle X-ray scattering and polarized light microscopy data can be combined to characterize quantitatively the morphology of liquid crystalline phases formed in CNT solutions at concentrations from 3 to 6.5% by volume. We find that upon increasing their concentration, CNTs self-assemble into a liquid crystalline phase with a pleated texture and with a large inter-particle spacing that could be indicative of a transition to higher-order liquid crystalline phases. We explain how thermal undulations of CNTs can enhance their electrostatic repulsion and increase their effective diameter by an order of magnitude. By calculating the critical concentration, where the mean amplitude of undulation of an unconstrained rod becomes comparable to the rod spacing, we find that thermal undulations start to affect steric forces at concentrations as low as the isotropic cloud point in CNT solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5122-5130
Number of pages9
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number20
Early online date9 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021


FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationDMR-1826623, PHY-2019745, 2019745, CMMI-1025020
U.S. Department of EnergyDE-EE0007865
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences1040446
Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)FA9550-12-1-0035, FA9550-15-1-0370
Welch FoundationC-1668
Bonfils-Stanton Foundation2016161, DMR-1040446, 2012223
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation


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