Metallic carbon nanotubes show great promise for applications from microelectronics to power lines because of their ballistic transmission of electrons. But who knew magnets could stop those electrons in their tracks?
Rice physicist Junichiro Kono and his team have been studying the Aharonov-Bohm effect -- the interaction between electrically charged particles and magnetic fields -- and how it relates to carbon nanotubes. While doing so, they came to the unexpected conclusion that magnetic fields can turn highly conductive nanotubes into semiconductors.
Their findings are published online this month in Physical Review Letters.
"When you apply a magnetic field, a band gap opens up and it becomes an insulator," said Kono, a Rice professor in electrical and computer engineering and in physics and astronomy. "You are changing a conductor into a semiconductor, and you can switch between the two. So this experiment explores both an important aspect of the results of the Aharonov-Bohm effect and the novel magnetic properties of carbon nanotubes."
Kono, graduate student Thomas Searles and their colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and in Japan successfully measured the magnetic susceptibility of a variety of nanotubes for the first time; they confirmed that metallics are far more susceptible to magnetic fields than semiconducting nanotubes, depending upon the orientation and strength of the field.
Single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) -- rolled-up sheets of graphene -- would all look the same to the naked eye if one could see them. But a closer look reveals nanotubes come in many forms, or chiralities, depending on how they're rolled. Some are semiconducting; some are highly conductive metallics. The gold standard for conductivity is the armchair nanotube, so-called because the open ends form a pattern that looks like armchairs.
Not just any magnet would do for their experiment
|Contact: David Ruth|