Double-helix structure in multiwall boron nitride nanotubes

Ayten Celik-Aktas, Jian Min Zuo, James F. Stubbins, Chengchun Tang, Yoshio Bando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A new nanotube structural form is reported that resembles a double helix in multiwall boron nitride nanotubes (MW-BNNT) grown by a carbon-free chemical-vapor-deposition process as documented by evidence obtained by transmission electron diffraction and microscopy. The double-helix structure is found in MW-BNNTs exhibiting the same chirality in its different walls. The MW-BNNTs deviate from the structure of ideal nested coaxial cylindrical tubes. Most significantly, bright- and dark-field electron imaging reveals regular zigzag dark and bright spots on the side walls of the nanotubes. The repeating distance between the bright, or dark, spots is related to the chiral angle of the nanotube. Electron diffraction patterns recorded from individual nanotubes show additional diffraction spots belonging to the (201) zone axes, which are not allowed in a perfectly cylindrical nanotube. These additional diffraction spots become asymmetrical as smaller sections of the nanotube are probed. A series of diffraction patterns recorded along the tube axis showed that the imperfections giving rise to these spots move in a regular fashion around the circumference of the tube. It is shown that all experimental evidence supports the structure model of two helices; one is polygonal in cross section and highly crystalline and the other is circular and less ordered. It is further suggested that the double-helix structure is a result of stronger wall-wall interactions associated with the ionic bonding in boron nitride.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-541
Number of pages9
JournalActa Crystallographica Section A: Foundations of Crystallography
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


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