Influence of elastic deformation on single-wall carbon nanotube atomic force microscopy probe resolution

Ian R. Shapiro, Santiago D. Solares, Maria J. Esplandiu, Lawrence A. Wade, William A. Goddard, C. Patrick Collier

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37 Citations (Scopus)


We have previously reported that 4-6 nm diameter single-wall carbon nanotube (SWNT) probes used for tapping-mode atomic force microscopy (AFM) can exhibit lateral resolution that is significantly better than the probe diameter when prone nanotubes are imaged on a flat SiO 2 surface. To further investigate this phenomenon, accurate models for use in atomistic molecular dynamics simulations were constructed on the basis of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and AFM data. Probe-sample interaction potentials were generated by utilization of force fields derived from ab initio quantum mechanics calculations and material bulk and surface properties, and the resulting force curves were integrated numerically with the AFM cantilever equation of motion. The simulations demonstrate that, under the AFM imaging conditions employed, elastic deformations of both the probe and sample nanotubes result in a decrease of the apparent width of the sample. This behavior provides an explanation for the unexpected resolution improvement and illustrates some of the subtleties involved when imaging is performed with SWNT probes in place of conventional silicon probes. However, the generality of this phenomenon for other AFM imaging applications employing SWNT probes remains to be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13613-13618
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number36
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2004

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