Scalable and Selective Dispersion of Semiconducting Arc-Discharged Carbon Nanotubes by Dithiafulvalene/Thiophene Copolymers for Thin Film Transistors

We report a simple and scalable method to enrich large quantities of semiconducting arc-discharged single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with diameters of 1.1–1.8 nm using dithiafulvalene/thiophene copolymers. Stable solutions of highly individualized and highly enriched semiconducting SWNTs were obtained after a simple sonication and centrifuge process. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of polymer backbone interactions with and without side chains indicated that the presence of long alkyl side chains gave rise to the selectivity toward semiconducting tubes, indicating the importance of the roles of the side chains to both solubilize and confer selectivity to the polymers. We found that, by increasing the ratio of thiophene to dithiafulvalene units in the polymer backbone (from pDTFF-1T to pDTFF-3T), we can slightly improve the selectivity toward semiconducting SWNTs. This is likely due to the more flexible backbone of pDTFF-3T that allows the favorable wrapping of SWNTs with certain chirality as characterized by small-angle X-ray scattering. However, the dispersion yield was reduced from pDTFF-1T to pDTFF-3T. MD simulations showed that the reduction is due to the smaller polymer/SWNT contact area, which reduces the dispersion ability of pDTFF-3T. These experimental and modeling results provide a better understanding for future rational design of polymers for sorting SWNTs. Finally, high on/off ratio solution-processed thin film transistors were fabricated from the sorted SWNTs to confirm the selective dispersion of semiconducting arc-discharge SWNTs.