Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Nucleation of Graphene and Its Conversion to Single Walled Carbon Nanotube



Matthieu C. Picher, Pin A. Lin, Gomez-Ballesteros L. Jose, Perla Balbuena, Renu Sharma


Nucleation is a critical stage for controlling the molecular building blocks into desired functional crystalline structures. For example, chirality of a single-walled carbon nanotube is determined at nucleation stage when the growing graphene sheet wraps around the catalyst and converts into a tubular structure.1-3 Elucidating the factors controlling the chirality may lead to a breakthrough for selective synthesis required to exploit their unique optoelectronic properties4. Direct observation of carbon nanofiber and nanotube growth5-7 and a large volume of theoretical simulations explaining the formation of nanotubes from graphene sheet on catalyst nanoparticles have been published.1,8-10 But direct experimental atomic resolution evidence of nanotube nucleation has eluded us Here, we present atomic-resolution movies, obtained using environmental transmission electron microscope,11 that reveal the graphene nucleation on cobalt carbide nanoparticles followed by its transformation to a single-walled carbon nanotube. We find that the surface termination of the faceted catalyst nanoparticles regulates the nucleation of the graphene sheet and its conversion into a nanotube. Additionally density functional theory calculations show that the strong work of adhesion of graphene to Co terminated surfaces provide anchoring planes for the tube rim to attach, while weak work of adhesion on Co-C terminated surface promotes the nanotube cap lift-off.
Nano Letters


Graphene, atomic scale nucleation, single-walled carbon nanotube, environmental transmission electron microscope, in situ imaging


Picher, M. , Lin, P. , Jose, G. , Balbuena, P. and Sharma, R. (2014), Nucleation of Graphene and Its Conversion to Single Walled Carbon Nanotube, Nano Letters, [online],, (Accessed April 14, 2024)
Created October 19, 2014, Updated October 12, 2021