Electromechanics also operates at the nanoscale

May 09, 2011
A suspended carbon nanotube can be made to vibrate like a guitar string. Gustav Sonne has studied how these oscillations influence the properties of the system if a magnetic field (H) is used to couple the mechanical motion of the tube to the electric current through it. Credit: University of Gothenburg

What limits the behaviour of a carbon nanotube? This is a question that many scientists are trying to answer. Physicists at University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have now shown that electromechanical principles are valid also at the nanometre scale. In this way, the unique properties of carbon nanotubes can be combined with classical physics – and this may prove useful in the quantum computers of the future.

"We have been studying carbon nanotubes theoretically, in order to see how they behave when they are stimulated to behave according to the laws quantum mechanics. The results provide a completely new platform for scientists to stand on", says Gustav Sonne of the Department of Physics at the University of Gothenburg.

Every day we use a number of different microelectromechanical components for various forms of detection, to determine whether a certain process has taken place or whether a certain substance is present. These cannot be detected without instruments. One example is the detection of rapid accelerations that is used to activate the airbag in a car during an accident. What all of these components have in common is that they combine mechanical and electronic properties in order to react to external stimuli.

Gustav Sonne has taken research down to a whole new dimension – from the micrometer scale to the nanometer scale – and he has studied the younger brothers of these components: nanoelectromechanical systems. The studies have been based on tiny nanotubes suspended between two electrical contacts. He has subsequently calculated how small vibrations in the suspended tubes can be coupled to a current that is led through them.

"Our research has focussed mainly on how these systems, which consist of a tiny, super-light mechanical oscillator (the suspended nanotube), can be described in quantum mechanical terms, and what effects this has on the measurements we can carry out. We have been able to demonstrate a number of new mechanisms for electromechanical coupling that should be possible to observe experimentally. This, in turn, may lead to extremely exotic physical phenomena in these structures, phenomena which may be of interest for research into quantum computers, and other fields."

Interest in nanotubes is based on their outstanding properties: they are among the strongest materials known, weigh next to nothing, and have extremely high conductivity for both electric currents and heat. Carbon nanotubes can be used to manufacture composite materials that are several orders of magnitude stronger than currently available materials.

Explore further: Breakthrough in flexible electronics enabled by inorganic-based laser lift-off

More information: The thesis "Mesoscopic phenomena in the electromechanics of suspended nanowires" was successfully defended in the Department of Physics.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Taming carbon nanotubes

Feb 07, 2011

Carbon nanotubes have many attractive properties, and their structure and areas of application can be compared with those of graphene, the material for whose discovery the most recent Nobel Prize was awarded. In order to ...

High Value Semiconducting Carbon Nanotubes

Jul 12, 2004

A simple technique has been developed for producing high value semiconducting carbon nanotubes from samples of single and multi walled carbon nanotubes. The Oxford Invention is a technique for purifying samp ...

Nanotubes find niche in electric switches

Mar 10, 2009

New research from Rice University and the University of Oulu in Oulu, Finland, finds that carbon nanotubes could significantly improve the performance of electrical commutators that are common in electric ...

Scientists Track Heat in Tiny Rolls of Carbon Atoms

Mar 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- IBM Research scientists today announced a landmark study in the field of nanoelectronics; the development and demonstration of novel techniques to measure the distribution of energy and heat in powered carbon ...

Sandia researcher examines the physics of carbon nanotubes

May 01, 2008

Carbon nanotubes, described as the reigning celebrity of the advanced materials world, are all the rage. Recently researchers at Rice University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute used them to make the “blackest ...

Recommended for you

Protons fuel graphene prospects

2 hours ago

Graphene, impermeable to all gases and liquids, can easily allow protons to pass through it, University of Manchester researchers have found.

Cooling with the coldest matter in the world

Nov 24, 2014

Physicists at the University of Basel have developed a new cooling technique for mechanical quantum systems. Using an ultracold atomic gas, the vibrations of a membrane were cooled down to less than 1 degree ...

Magnetic fields and lasers elicit graphene secret

Nov 24, 2014

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have studied the dynamics of electrons from the "wonder material" graphene in a magnetic field for the first time. This led to the discovery of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.