Surface-bound nanostructures: mechanical and metrological studies

This thesis looks at surface-bound nanowires and nanoparticles, the mechanical and the metrological properties of which are of practical importance in the realization of nanometer-scale electronics. Atomic force microscope (AFM) was the main instrument of research. By bending suspended carbon nanotube structures with the AFM, the Young's modulus of carbon nanotubes has been measured. An efficient new technique that involves an ac-dielectrophoresis preparation of carbon nanotubes on v-groove GaAs substrates and a force-curve measurement of the stiffness has been devised. The Young's modulus of a batch of multiwall carbon nanotubes grown by a single chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process shows a strong diameter dependence, indicating that the small catalyst particles produce crystalline tubes, while the thicker particles produce low-quality tubes with an abundance of structural defects. The experimental result is a strong evidence for the metastable-catalyst growth model of carbon nanotubes in CVD — the growth kinetics of carbon nanotubes is determined by the catalyst's liquid skin, which is more stable for smaller catalysts. As the nanotube study highlighted the importance of the size of catalyst nanoparticles, the topic of accurate nanoparticle sizing by dynamic AFM was then investigated. The measured size of a surface-bound nanoparticle was found to vary with imaging parameters, and a theoretical modeling showed that the non-contact — intermittent-contact mode switching can lead to discrepancies. Experimental results confirmed that the mode switching indeed causes the largest error in size measurements. A discrepancy also exists between the all-non-contact-mode and all-intermittent-contact-mode cases, and this anomaly could be explained by the effects of particle-substrate deformation and capillary forces. Nanoparticles were prepared on surfaces by boiling colloid drops on hot surfaces, a new technique developed for the uniformly dispersed deposition of colloidal nanoparticles and nanowires. Our experiments suggest that the actual deposition occurs through the smooth dewetting of liquid microdrops at elevated temperatures. The method is applicable on a wide range of surfaces and materials. Finally, a general haptic interface for the AFM was realized. The interface can be implemented on different AFM models with little effort, and it supports both the contact- and dynamic-AFM operations. Manipulation of gold nanoparticles has been carried out by raster scanning at different dynamic AFM setpoints, a promising approach for a quantitative study of the nanoparticle-substrate friction.

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