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A Piggyback Ride for Transition Metals: Encapsulation of Exohedral Metallofullerenes in Carbon Nanotubes



We have developed a method that enables the efficient insertion of transition-metal atoms and their small clusters into carbon nanotubes. As a model system, Os complexes attached to the exterior of fullerene C60 (exohedral metallofullerenes) were shown to be dragged into the nanotube spontaneously and irreversibly due to strong van der Waals interactions, specific to fullerenes and carbon nanotubes. The size of the metal-containing groups attached to C60 was shown to be critical for successful insertion, as functional groups too bulky to enter the nanotube were stripped off the fullerene during the encapsulation process. Once inside the nanotube, Os atoms catalyse polymerisation and decomposition of fullerene cages, which is related to a much higher catalytic activity of metal atoms situated on the surface of the fullerene cage, as compared to metal atoms in endohedral fullerenes, such as M@C82. Thus, exohedral metallofullerenes show promise for applications in catalysis in carbon “nano” test tubes.