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Keywords:

  • carbon nanotubes;
  • dispersion;
  • photoluminescence;
  • pH sensitivity;
  • protein design

Abstract

Highly dispersed and debundled carbon nanotubes were prepared in an aqueous solution of lysozyme using a combination of ultrasonication and ultracentrifugation. The product is a pH-sensitive dispersion, which remains in a highly dispersed state at pH<8 and pH>11, but in an aggregated state at pH 8–11. Photoluminescence measurements show that by changing the pH value, a reversible conversion of the highly dispersed state to the aggregated state (or vice versa) could be observed. Circular dichromism analysis confirmed that the secondary structure, as well as the majority of the tertiary structure, remains intact. Some lysozyme molecules were irreversibly bound to the nanotubes, which is possibly due to ππ or hydrophobic interactions. However, these interactions alone are not enough to produce fine dispersions of the nanotubes. Protonated amine interactions on the defect sites of the nanotubes play a vital role in the stabilization of the nanotubes below the isoelectric point and amine adsorption on the sidewalls of nanotubes occurs in cases where the pH value is higher than the isoelectric point.