Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) possess unique electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties which have led to the development of novel nanomechanical materials and devices. In this thesis, the mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes are studied with an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) and, conversely, the use of CNTs to enhance conventional AFM probes is also investigated.
First, the performance of AFM probes with multiwalled CNT tips are evaluated during attractive regime AFM imaging of high aspect ratio structures. The presented experimental results show two distinct imaging artifacts, the divot and large ringing artifacts, which are inherent to such CNT AFM probes. Through the adjustment of operating parameters, the connection of these artifacts to CNT bending, adhesion, and stiction is described qualitatively and explained.
Next, the adhesion and peeling of CNTs on different substrates is quantitatively investigated with theoretical models and a new AFM mode for nanomechanical peeling. The theoretical model uncovers the rich physics of peeling of CNTs from surfaces, including sudden transitions between different geometric configurations of the nanotube with vastly different interfacial energies. The experimental peeling of CNTs is shown to be capable of resolving differences in CNT peeling energies at attoJoule levels on different materials.
AFM peeling force spectroscopy is further studied on a variety of materials, including several polymers, to demonstrate the capability of direct measurement of interfacial energy between an individual nanotube or nanofiber and a given material surface. Theoretical investigations demonstrate that interfacial and flexural energies can be decoupled so that the work of the applied peeling force can be used to estimate the CNT-substrate interfacial fracture energy and nanotube's flexural stiffness. Hundreds of peeling force experiments on graphite, epoxy, and polyimide demonstrate that the peeling force spectroscopy offers a convenient experimental framework to quickly screen different combinations of polymers and functionalized nanotubes for optimal interfacial strength.
Finally, multiple CNT AFM probe oscillation states in tapping mode AFM as the cantilever is brought closer to a sample are fully investigated, including two kinds of permanent contact and two types of intermittent contact. Large deformation continuum elastica models of MWCNTs with different end boundary conditions are used to identify whether the CNT remains anchored to the sample in line-contact or in point-contact in the permanent contact regime. Energy dissipation spectroscopy and phase contrast are demonstrated as a way to predict the state of CNT-substrate boundary condition in the intermittent tapping regime on different substrates and to highlight the implications of these different imaging regimes for critical dimension AFM, biological sensing, and nanolithography.
Together, this work studies the effect of CNT mechanical interactions in AFM, including artifact-avoidance optimization of and new compositional mapping using CNT AFM probes as well as novel techniques that will potentially enhance the future development of CNT-based nanodevices and materials.