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Like the famous doughboy, nanotubes give when you poke 'em

Smaller, faster computers, bullet proof t-shirts and itty-bitty robots, such are the promises of nanotechnology and the cylinder-shaped collection of carbon molecules known as nanotubes. But in order for these exciting technologies to hit the marketplace (who wouldn't want an itty-bitty robot), scientists must understand how these miracle-molecules perform under all sorts of conditions. For, without nanoscience, there would be no nanotechnology.

In a recent study, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, along with colleagues from the IBM Watson Research Center and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, found that while nanotubes are extremely stiff when pulled from the ends, they give when poked in the middle. The larger the radius, the softer they become. The finding, which is important for the development of nanoelectronics, is published in the May 6, 2005 edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.

"We know from previous studies that nanotubes are very stiff in the axial direction (end to end) but very little is known about their radial elasticity, mainly because when you're working with tubes that small it's very difficult to poke them without pushing them beyond the point where they will be irremediably damaged," said Elisa Riedo, assistant professor of physics at Georgia Tech.

Using an atomic force microscope (AFM) and testing it with a tip of 35 nanometers in radius, researchers lightly prodded the nanotubes to measure the elasticity.

"By making a very small indentation in the tubes, we were able to measure the radial elasticity of a number of single and multiwalled carbon nanotubes of different radii. What we found was that as we tested this technique with wider and wider nanotubes, the bigger tubes were much less stiff than the smaller tubes," said Riedo.

Riedo and colleagues began with a single-walled nanotube with a radius of only 0.2 nanometers and slowly inched, or rather na
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Contact: David Terraso
david.terraso@icpa.gatech.edu
404-385-2966
Georgia Institute of Technology
17-May-2005


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