Electronic structure of atomically resolved carbon nanotubes

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Carbon nanotubes can be thought of as graphitic sheets with a hexagonal lattice that have been wrapped up into a seamless cylinder. Since their discovery in 19911, the peculiar electronic properties of these structures have attracted much attention. Their electronic conductivity, for example, has been predicted2,3,4 to depend sensitively on tube diameter and wrapping angle (a measure of the helicity of the tube lattice), with only slight differences in these parameters causing a shift from a metallic to a semiconducting state. In other words, similarly shaped molecules consisting of only one element (carbon) may have very different electronic behaviour. Although the electronic properties of multi-walled and single-walled nanotubes5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 have been probed experimentally, it has not yet been possible to relate these observations to the corresponding structure. Here we present the results of scanning tunnelling microscopy and spectroscopy on individual single-walled nanotubes from which atomically resolved images allow us to examine electronic properties as afunction of tube diameter and wrapping angle. We observe bothmetallic and semiconducting carbon nanotubes and find thatthe electronic properties indeed depend sensitively on thewrapping angle. The bandgaps of both tube types are consistent with theoretical predictions. We also observe van Hove singularities at the onset of one-dimensional energy bands, confirming the strongly one-dimensional nature of conduction within nanotubes.

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Figure 1: Relation between the hexagonal carbon lattice and the chirality of carbon nanotubes.
Figure 2: Electronic properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes.
Figure 3: (dI/dV)/(I/V) which is a measure of the density of states versus V for nanotube no. 9.


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The first two authors contributed equally to the present work. We thank S. J. Tans and J. C. Charlier for discussions, and L. P. Kouwenhoven, J. E. Mooij and P. M. Dewilde for support. The work at Delft was supported by the Dutch Foundation for Fundamental Research of Matter (FOM). The nanotube research at Rice was funded in part by the US NSF, the Texas Advanced Technology Program and the Robert A. Welch Foundation.

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Correspondence to Cees Dekker.

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