The interactions of a gold atom with: (a) a single-wall carbon nanohorn (SWNH) conic tip; (b) with a single-wall carbon nanotube (SWNT) tip; and (c) their complexes with a CO molecule were studied using first-principle calculations based on density functional theory. The analysis of the pyramidalization angle (θp) as well as the π-orbital misalignment angles indicate that there should be many reactive carbon sites on the tips of SWNH and SWNT. It was found that SWNH provides reactive sites that can more selectively interact with the target atom. We identified five sites on both the SWNT tip and the nanohorn where attachment of a gold atom leads to a stable complex. This metal is found to be bi-coordinated with the tip of SWNH, while it is mono-coordinated with the SWNT tip. The largest interaction energies are -10.75 kcal/mol and -16.17 kcal/mol, respectively. The CO probe molecule binds to Au on the Au/SWNH or Au/SWNT tips with interaction energies of -22.34 and -18.29 kcal/mol, respectively. The main contributions of the interaction with both carbon nanostructures stems from σ-donation and π-backbonding. The results suggest that SWNHs could be one of the promising candidates for the development of high-specifity nanosensors. © 2008 EDP Sciences/Società Italiana di Fisica/Springer-Verlag.
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