Ion Enrichment inside Ultra-Short Carbon Nanotubes

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nanomaterials Article High-Efficiency Ion Enrichment inside Ultra-Short Carbon Nanotubes Yu Qiang 1,2,†, Xueliang Wang 3,4,† , Zhemian Ying 5,6, Yuying Zhou 5, Renduo Liu 5, Siyan Gao 1,2 and Long Yan 5,* 1 2 3 4 5 6 * Correspondence: yanlong@sinap.ac.cn † These authors contributed equally to this work. Abstract: The ion-enrichment inside carbon nanotubes (CNTs) offers the possibility of applications in water purification, ion batteries, memory devices, supercapacitors, field emission and functional hybrid nanostructures. However, the low filling capacity of CNTs in salt solutions due to end caps and blockages remains a barrier to the practical use of such applications. In this study, we fabricated ultra-short CNTs that were free from end caps and blockages using ball milling and acid pickling. We then compared their ion-enrichment capacity with that of long CNTs. The results showed that the ion-enrichment capacity of ultra-short CNTs was much higher than that of long CNTs. Furthermore, a broad range of ions could be enriched in the ultra-short CNTs including alkali-metal ions (e.g., K+), alkaline-earth-metal ions (e.g., Ca2+) and heavy-metal ions (e.g., Pb2+). The ultra-short CNTs were much more unobstructed than the raw long CNTs, which was due to the increased orifice number per unit mass of CNTs and the decreased difficulty in removing the blockages in the middle section inside the CNTs. Under the hydrated-cation–π interactions, the ultra-short CNTs with few end caps and blockages could highly efficiently enrich ions. Keywords: carbon nanotube; filling capacity; hydrated-cation–π interaction; ion enrichment 1. Introduction Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) exhibit remarkable structural and physicochemical prop- erties [1,2] and show potential in water purification systems [3], ion batteries [4,5], mem- ory devices [6], supercapacitors [7,8] and field emission [9–11]. The hollow cavities of CNTs can host guest molecules/ions [12–15] and confine the guest species in radial direc- tions, effectively forming one-dimensional nanowires or nanoparticle materials [16–18]. Furthermore, such host–guest conformations alter and/or enhance the magnetic [19,20], electrochemical [21], optical [22,23], electromagnetic [24,25], catalytic [26,27] and other physicochemical properties [14,18,28] of both the host CNTs and the guest species [29]. Several studies have demonstrated that filled-CNT-based devices offer access to a range of next-generation technologies [13]. However, their realization and commercialization are hindered by an incomplete understanding of the CNT-filling mechanisms and underdevel- oped filling technology [13]. The methods for filling CNTs can be categorized as in situ or ex situ [30]. The main in situ methods are arc discharge and catalytic chemical vapor deposition. However, both of these methods generally require complex operation processes and suffer from serious School of Physics, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai 200237, China School of Material Science and Engineering, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai 200237, China Zhejiang Engineering Research Center for Tissue Repair Materials, Wenzhou Institute, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wenzhou 325000, China School of Physical Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 201800, China University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China Citation: Qiang, Y.; Wang, X.; Ying, Z.; Zhou, Y.; Liu, R.; Gao, S.; Yan, L. High-Efficiency Ion Enrichment inside Ultra-Short Carbon Nanotubes. Nanomaterials2022,12,3528. https:// doi.org/10.3390/nano12193528 Academic Editor: Ana M. Benito Received: 19 September 2022 Accepted: 5 October 2022 Published: 9 October 2022 Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affil- iations. Copyright: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 4.0/). Nanomaterials 2022, 12, 3528. https://doi.org/10.3390/nano12193528 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/nanomaterials

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