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The products of laser ablation of graphite in a nitrogen atmosphere have been studied by transmission electron microscopy and electron energy-loss spectroscopy. Using nickel and cobalt as catalyst, single-wall carbon nanotubes can be produced with a yield similar to that obtained in an inert gas. Nitrogen has not been found in the nanotubes and crystallized fullerenes although it has been detected in amorphous carbon. A growth model has been proposed to explain the experimental results. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.