Mechanical behaviour of carbon nanostructures

University dissertation from Karlstad : Karlstads universitet



Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have extraordinary mechanical and electrical properties. Together with their small dimensions and low density, they are attractive candidates for building blocks in future nanoelectromechanical systems and for many other applications. The extraordinary properties are however only attained by perfectly crystalline CNTs and quickly deteriorate when defects are introduced to the structure. The growth technique affects the crystallinity where in general CNTs grown by arc-discharge are close to perfectly crystalline, while CVD-grown CNTs have large defect densities. Mechanical deformation also affects these properties, even without introducing defects. When CNTs are bent they behave similarly to drinking straws, i.e. they buckle or ripple and their bending stiffness drops abruptly.In this thesis, the mechanical behaviour of individual CNTs and vertically aligned carbon nanofibers (VACNFs) has been studied by performing force measurements inside electron microscopes. Cantilevered CNTs, and VACNFs, were bent using a force sensor, yielding force-deflection curves while their structure was imaged simultaneously.We have found that CNTs grown by arc-discharge have a high enough crystallinity to possess a Young’s modulus close to the ideal value of 1 TPa. CVD-grown CNTs possess a Young’s modulus that is about one order of magnitude smaller, due to their large defect density. The VACNFs are yet another order of magnitude softer as a result of their cup-stacked internal structure.  We also found that a high defect density will increase the critical strain for the rippling onset and the relative post-rippling stiffness. Multi-walled CNTs with a small inner diameter are less prone to ripple and have a larger relative post-rippling stiffness. Our findings show large variations in the onset of rippling and the bending stiffness before and after rippling. These variations open up possibilities of tailoring the mechanical properties for specific applications.