High-field electromagnetic radiation converts carbon nanotubes to nanoribbons embedded with carbon nanocrystals

P. Chen, X. Wang, Y. Luan, Z. Fei, B. Lacroix, S. Lei and S. R. Das

Journal of Applied Physics 128, 024305 (2020)
One-dimensional carbon nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) are promising for future applications in nanoelectronics and nanophotonics due to their unique characteristics such as topological edge states, chirality, and quantum confinement. Despite the chemical unzipping method of producing GNRs from CNTs, using energetic photons to control light–matter interaction and shape materials at the nanoscale has great promise, especially for chemical-free and on-demand manufacturing. Here, we exploit the high electromagnetic field from a Ti:Sapphire femtosecond laser to interact with CNTs, causing ultrafast energy transfer between the photons and the nanotubes and converting them to GNRs and carbon nanocrystals. Probed with scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy, the nanoribbons are identified as semiconducting and/or insulating, a strikingly different electronic phase compared with the original metallic CNTs. Our method of employing high-field and nonequilibrium processes with an ultrafast laser to alter the shape and transform the electronic properties is scalable, does not necessitate high-temperature processes, and is highly spatially controllable—conditions that pave the way for manufacturing nanoscale hybrid materials and devices.