Applied Surface Science

Carbon nanotubes: Nanomechanics, manipulation, and electronic devices

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Carbon nanotubes are novel materials with unique electrical and mechanical properties. Here we present results on their atomic structure and mechanical properties in the adsorbed state, on ways to manipulate individual nanotubes, on their electrical properties and, finally, on the fabrication and characteristics of nanotube-based electron devices. Specifically, atomic force microscopy (AFM) and molecular mechanics simulations are used to investigate the effects of van der Waals interactions on the atomic structure of adsorbed nanotubes. Both radial and axial structural deformations are identified and the interaction energy itself is obtained from the observed deformations. The conditions under which the structure of a nanotube will adjust to the topography of the substrate are defined. We show that the strong substrate-nanotube interaction allows the manipulation of both the position and shape of individual nanotubes at inert surfaces using the AFM. AFM manipulation is then utilized to position individual nanotubes on electrical pads so that their electrical characteristics can be evaluated. We demonstrate the operation of a field-effect transistor based on a single semiconducting nanotube and of a single-electron transistor using a nanotube bundle as Coulomb island. Finally, conducting nanotubes are employed as tips for AFM lithography.