Direct Measurement of the Bending Stiffness of Individual Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanofibers (VACNFs)
Paper in proceedings, 2011
Vertically aligned carbon nanofibers (VACNFs) are synthesized in a plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition process (PECVD) in which the position, diameter, length, and alignment of individual nanofibers can be controlled accurately. This has provided an unprecedented opportunity to realize a new bottom-up-engineered material with excellent mechanical and electrical properties which could exploit the third dimension at a reasonable cost. VACNFs have been already employed in a number of applications including electron emitters, gene delivery arrays, and nanoelectromechanical systems. However, no direct measurement of the Young’s modulus of VACNFs has been reported yet. Qi et al. have used nanoindentation method to measure the collective response of a forest of VACNFs with a distribution in length and diameter of the constituent nanofibers. Kaul et al., have reported in situ uniaxial compression tests on individual VACNFs but they have not provided enough information to evaluate the accuracy of their measurements. Indirect estimation of the VACNFs Young’s modulus has also been reported by Eriksson et al. from measurements of the resonance frequency of a nanofiber deposited on top of an excitation electrode.
Here, we report on direct measurements of VACNFs Young’s modulus using a piezoresistive atomic force microscope (AFM) cantilever implemented inside a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The VACNFs were grown from Ni catalyst seeds, patterned using electron-beam lithography on top of a stoichiometric TiN underlayer. The VACNFs were grown in a commercially available PECVD chamber (AIXTRON BlackMagic™). The nanofibers were approached from the side and pushed at the tip (resembling a cantilever beam) and force-deflection curves were obtained. By calibrating the AFM sensor the bending stiffness of the nanofiber could be determined. The Young’s modulus was then estimated by taking the nanofibers dimensions into account. The sub-nano Newton force precision provided by the AFM force-sensor together with the fact the individual VACNFs could be observed in the SEM simultaneously during the measurements, has enabled us to measure the nanofibers Young’s modulus with a high precision. Preliminary measurements indicate that VACNFs posses a Young’s modulus between 40 to 100 GPa which is comparable to CVD grown carbon nanotubes of similar diameter.