The electrocatalytic properties of arc-MWCNTs and associated ‘carbon onions’

Martin C. Henstridge, Lidong Shao, Gregory Wildgoose, Richard G. Compton, Gerard Tobias, Malcolm L. H. Green

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53 Citations (Scopus)


For the first time we report on the electrochemical characteristics of nanometer sized polyhedral graphite onions dispersed amongst arc-MWCNTs. These are formed during the electric arc discharge method of producing ultrapure MWCNTs (arc-MWCNTs). The carbon onions are randomly dispersed amongst the arc-MWCNTs which are produced with very little amorphous carbon deposits or other unwanted impurities and are formed as closed-ended tubes. By comparison with commercially available open-ended hollow-tube multiwalled carbon nanotubes made using the chemical vapor deposition method (cvd-MWCNTs), a glassy carbon electrode (GCE), an edge-plane pyrolytic graphite electrode (eppg) and basal plane pyrolytic graphite (bppg) electrode, we can speculate that it is the edge-plane-like defect sites that are the electroactive sites responsible for the apparent ‘electrocatalysis’ seen with a wide range of analytes including: ferrocyanide, ruthenium hexaamine(III), nicotinamide adenosine dinucleotide (NADH), epinephrine, norepinephrine, cysteine, and glutathione. The arc-MWCNTs themselves are produced as closed-ended tubes with very few, if any, edge-plane-like defect sites evident in their HRTEM characterization. Therefore we speculate that it is the carbon onions dispersed amongst the arc-MWCNTs which have incomplete graphite shells or a rolled-up ‘Swiss-roll’ structures that posses the edge-plane-like defect sites and are responsible for the observed voltammetric responses. Carbon onions are no more or no less ‘electrocatalytic’ than open-ended MWCNTs which in turn are no more electrocatalytic than an eppg electrode. As the carbon onions are ubiquitous in MWCNTs formed using the arc-discharge method the authors advise that caution should be taken before assigning any electrocatalytic behavior to the MWCNTs themselves as any observed electrocatalysis likely arises from the carbon onion impurities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-506
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008

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