Nanobeam Mechanics: Elasticity, Strength, and Toughness of Nanorods and Nanotubes

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Science  26 Sep 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5334, pp. 1971-1975
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5334.1971

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The Young's modulus, strength, and toughness of nanostructures are important to proposed applications ranging from nanocomposites to probe microscopy, yet there is little direct knowledge of these key mechanical properties. Atomic force microscopy was used to determine the mechanical properties of individual, structurally isolated silicon carbide (SiC) nanorods (NRs) and multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) that were pinned at one end to molybdenum disulfide surfaces. The bending force was measured versus displacement along the unpinned lengths. The MWNTs were about two times as stiff as the SiC NRs. Continued bending of the SiC NRs ultimately led to fracture, whereas the MWNTs exhibited an interesting elastic buckling process. The strengths of the SiC NRs were substantially greater than those found previously for larger SiC structures, and they approach theoretical values. Because of buckling, the ultimate strengths of the stiffer MWNTs were less than those of the SiC NRs, although the MWNTs represent a uniquely tough, energy-absorbing material.

  • * Both authors contributed equally to this work.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: cml{at}

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