Research Article

Nano Research

, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp 833-844

First online:

Repair and stabilization in confined nanoscale systems — inorganic nanowires within single-walled carbon nanotubes

  • Adelina IlieAffiliated withDepartment of Physics & Centre for Graphene Science, University of Bath Email author 
  • , Simon CrampinAffiliated withDepartment of Physics & Centre for Graphene Science, University of Bath
  • , Lisa KarlssonAffiliated withDepartment of Materials, University of Oxford
  • , Mark WilsonAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, University of Oxford

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Repair is ubiquitous in biological systems, but rare in the inorganic world. We show that inorganic nanoscale systems can however possess remarkable repair and reconfiguring capabilities when subjected to extreme confinement. Confined crystallization inside single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) templates is known to produce the narrowest inorganic nanowires, but little is known about the potential for repair of such nanowires once crystallized, and what can drive it. Here inorganic nanowires encapsulated within SWCNTs were seen by high-resolution transmission electron microscopy to adjust to changes in their nanotube template through atomic rearrangement at room temperature. These observations highlight nanowire repair processes, supported by theoretical modeling, that are consistent with atomic migration at fractured, ionic ends of the nanowires encouraged by long-range force fields, as well as release-blocking mechanisms where nanowire atoms bind to nanotube walls to stabilize the ruptured nanotube and allow the nanowire to reform. Such principles can inform the design of nanoscale systems with enhanced resilience.


Filled carbon nanotubes nanowires repair high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) density functional theory molecular dynamics