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 experiments. Kono and Searles traveled to the Tsukuba Magnet Laboratory at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Japan, where the world's second-largest electromagnet was used to tease a refined ensemble of 10 chiralities of SWNTs, some metallic and some semiconducting, into giving up their secrets.
By ramping the big magnet up to 35 tesla, they found that the nanotubes would begin to align themselves in parallel and that the metallics reacted far more strongly than the semiconductors. (For comparison, the average MRI machine for medical imaging has electromagnets rated at 0.5 to 3 tesla.) Spectroscopic analysis confirmed the metallics, particularly armchair nanotubes, were two to four times more susceptible to the magnetic field than semiconductors and that each chirality reacted differently.
The nanotubes were all about 0.7 to 0.8 nanometers (or billionths of a meter) wide and 500 nanometers long, so variations in size were not a factor in results by Searles. He spent a week last fall running experiments at the Tsukuba facility's "hybrid," a large-bore superconducting magnet that contains a water-cooled resistive magnet.
Kono said the work would continue on purified batches of nanotubes produced by ultracentrifugation at Rice. That should yield more specific information about their susceptibility to magnetic fields, though he suspects the effect should be even stronger in longer metallics. "This work clearly shows that metallic tubes and semiconducting tubes are different, but now that we have metallic-enriched samples, we can compare different chiralities within the metallic family," he said.
Co-authors of the paper include Yasutaka Imanaka and Tadashi Takamasu of NIMS, Tsukuba, Japan; Hiroshi Ajiki of the Photon Pioneers Center at Osaka University, Japan; and Jeffrey Fagan and Erik Hobbie, researchers at NIST, Gaithersburg, Md.
Searles conducted the majority of the research during a visit to NIMS supported in part by a National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education grant to Kono and his co-principal investigators. Other funding came from the Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences, the Robert A. Welch Foundation and the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.
David Ruth | EurekAlert!
New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology
Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy
21.04.2017 | Stockholm University
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy