On the applicability of carbon nanotubes as nanomechanical probes and manipulators

K Jin and XQ Feng and TW Ng and ZP Xu, NANOTECHNOLOGY, 23, 415502 (2012).

DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/23/41/415502

Carbon nanotube (CNT) probes offer improved imaging resolution in atomic force microscopy (AFM) and nanomanipulating devices due to their excellent mechanical properties and high aspect ratios. The basis of ascertaining scanning image quality using CNT probes is often centered on whether axial buckling has occurred or not. Here we explore the mechanical behavior and applicability of CNTs in surface scanning using molecular dynamics simulations in which the influence of van der Waals interactions is accounted for. Our results indicate the possible deleterious effects from van der Waals interaction dominated buckling of the probe, which is exacerbated by surface corrugations at the atomic scale. Under the premise that these issues can be surmounted, a cantilever model developed under known requirements for the structural characteristics of CNT probes is shown to be able to assess imaging fidelity. This model offers an effective guide to the selection and design of CNT probes for AFM.

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