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Nanostressing and Mechanochemistry

Kevin D. Ausman, Mead M. Jordan, Henry W. Rohrs, MinFeng Yu, Rod S. Ruoff*

aDepartment of Physics, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

This is an abstract for a presentation given at the
Sixth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
The full article is available at


Controlled mechanical manipulation and testing of nanostructures will be essential to the development and refinement of components for nanotechnology applications. We are developing a stage to apply controlled forces/displacements along one axis on nanoscale materials. When applying tensile stress, this stage will allow determination of elasticity, yield-point, and tensile strength of nanoscale components or materials. Some of these properties have been measured for multi-walled carbon nanotubes by other methods involving thermal vibrations1 or lateral bending2, but for geometric reasons the off-axis mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes are likely to be different from the on-axis properties. When the proposed stressing stage is used to apply compressive stress, bending, kinking, and buckling may be observed. In this talk, we report progress toward the development of this single-axis nanostressing stage, which is designed for use with transmission electron microscope imaging.

One of the primary driving forces for chemical reactivity in the fullerenes is the release of cage strain energy caused by cage-induced curvature of the normally planar sp2 hybridized carbons.3 In fact, it is observed that in carbon nanotubes, the highly curved end caps are more reactive than the less curved side walls.4,5,6 Several studies have observed that carbon nanotubes may be reversibly kinked, much as a common garden hose may be, producing areas of high localized curvature.7,8,9,10 It follows that these highly curved sites will be preferentially reactive in the same types of reactions that have been successful on fullerenes and nanotube end caps. However, these kinked sites are predicted to have even higher degrees of curvature than the end caps and the fullerenes11, and thus are likely to be even more reactive.12

In order to experimentally perform mechanochemistry on carbon nanotubes, as we term the controlled induction of chemical reactions by nanoscale mechanical stresses, we must be able to reliably kink the tubes. We hope to eventually do this with the nanostressing stage described above. However, we have already been able to kink nanotubes by AFM manipulation. Progress toward mechanochemistry on AFM kinked nanotubes will be reported.


[1] Treacy, M.M.J.; Ebbesen, T.W.; and Gibson, J.M. (1996) Nature, 381, June 20, pages 678-680. Exceptionally high Young's modulus observed for individual carbon nanotubes

[2] Wong, E.W.; Sheehan, P.E.; and Lieber, C.M. (1997) Science, 277, September 26, pages 1971-1975. Nanobeam Mechanics: Elasticity, Strength, and Toughness of Nanorods and Nanotubes

[3] Haddon, R.C. (1993) Science, 261, September 17, pages 1545-1550. Chemistry of the Fullerenes: The Manifestation of Strain in a Class of Continuous Aromatic Molecules

[4] Tsang, S.C.; Harris, P.J.F.; and Green, M.L.H. (1993) Nature, 362, April 8, pages 520-522. Thinning and opening of carbon nanotubes by oxidation using carbon dioxide

[5] Tsang, S.C.; Chen, Y.K.; Harris, P.J.F.; and Green, M.L.H. (1994) Nature, 372, November 10, pages 159-162. A simple chemical method of opening and filling carbon nanotubes

[6] Hwang, K.C. (1995) Journal of the Chemical Society, Chemical Communications, January 21, pages 173-174. Efficient Cleavage of Carbon Graphene Layers by Oxidants.

[7] Despres, J.F.; Daguerre, E.; and Lafdi, K (1995) Carbon, 33 No. 1, pages 149-151. Flexibility of graphene layers in carbon nanotubes.

[8] Kuzumaki, T.; Hayashi, T.; Ichinose,H.; Miyazawa, K.; Ito, K.; and Ishida, Y. (1998) Philosophical Magazene A, 77 No. 6, pages 1461-1469. In-situ observed deformation of carbon nanotubes

[9] Yakobson, B.I.; Brabec, C.J., and Bernholc, J. (1996), Physical Review Letters, 76 No. 14, April 1, pages 2511-2514. Nanomechanics of Carbon Tubes: Instabilities beyond Linear Response

[10] Cornwell, C.F. and Wille, L.T. (1998) Journal of Chemical Physics, 109 No. 2, July 8, pages 763-767. Critical strain and catalytic growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes

[11] Iijima, S.; Brabec, C.; Maiti, A.; and Bernholc, J. (1996) Journal of Chemical Physics, 104 No. 5, February 1, pages 2089-2092. Structural flexibility of carbon nanotubes

[12] Srivastava, D.; Brenner, D.W.; Schall, J.D.; Ruoff, R. (in preparation) Kinky Chemistry: Predictions of Enhanced Chemical Binding to Fullerene Tubules at Kink Sites

*Corresponding Address:
Rodney S. Ruoff
Physics Department, Washington University
CB1105, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO63130-4899.
Tel: (314) 935-7507, fax (314) 935-5258
Email:, Web:


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