Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) have been the focus of intense research, and the body of literature continues to grow exponentially, despite more than two decades having passed since the first reports. As well as extensive studies of the fundamental properties, this has seen SWCNTs used in a plethora of applications as far ranging as microelectronics, energy storage, solar cells, and sensors, to cancer treatment, drug delivery, and neuronal interfaces. On the other hand, the properties and applications of double-walled carbon nanotubes (DWCNTs) have remained relatively under-explored. This is despite DWCNTs not only sharing many of the same unique characteristics of their single-walled counterparts, but also possessing an additional suite of potentially advantageous properties arising due to the presence of the second wall and the often complex inter-wall interactions that arise. For example, it is envisaged that the outer wall can be selectively functionalized whilst still leaving the inner wall in its pristine state and available for signal transduction. A similar situation arises in DWCNT field effect transistors (FETs), where the outer wall can provide a convenient degree of chemical shielding of the inner wall from the external environment, allowing the excellent transconductance properties of the pristine nanotubes to be more fully exploited. Additionally, DWCNTs should also offer unique opportunities to further the fundamental understanding of the inter-wall interactions within and between carbon nanotubes. However, the realization of these goals has so far been limited by the same challenge experienced by the SWCNT field until recent years, namely, the inherent heterogeneity of raw, as-produced DWCNT material. As such, there is now an emerging field of research regarding DWCNT processing that focuses on the preparation of material of defined length, diameter and electronic type, and which is rapidly building upon the experience gained by the broader SWCNT community. This review describes the background of the field, summarizing some relevant theory and the available synthesis and purification routes; then provides a thorough synopsis of the current state-of-the-art in DWCNT sorting methodologies, outlines contemporary challenges in the field, and discusses the outlook for various potential applications of the resulting material.
- double-walled carbon nanotubes
- electronic properties
- field-effect transistors