Atomic structure and electronic properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes

Article metrics


Carbon nanotubes1 are predicted to be metallic or semiconducting depending on their diameter and the helicity of the arrangement of graphitic rings in their walls2,3,4,5. Scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) offers the potential to probe this prediction, as it can resolve simultaneously both atomic structure and the electronic density of states. Previous STM studies of multi-walled nanotubes6,7,8,9 and single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs)10 have provided indications of differing structures and diameter-dependent electronic properties, but have not revealed any explicit relationship between structure and electronic properties. Here we report STM measurements of the atomic structure and electronic properties of SWNTs. We are able to resolve the hexagonal-ring structure of the walls, and show that the electronic properties do indeed depend on diameter and helicity. We find that the SWNT samples exhibit many different structures, with no one species dominating.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Schematic of a two-dimensional graphene sheet illustrating lattice vectors a1 and a2, and the roll-up vector.
Figure 2: Atomic structure and spectroscopy of metallic SWNTs.
Figure 3: Structure and spectroscopy of semiconducting SWNTs.


  1. 1

    Dresselhaus, M. S., Dresselhaus, G. & Eklund, P. C. Science of Fullerenes and Carbon Nanotubes (Academic, San Diego, (1996)).

  2. 2

    Mintmire, J. W., Dunlap, B. I. & White, C. T. Are fullerene tubes metallic? Phys. Rev. Lett. 68, 631–634 (1992).

  3. 3

    Hamada, N., Sawada, S. & Oshiyama, A. New one-dimensional conductors: graphitic microtubules. Phys. Rev. Lett. 68, 1579–1581 (1992).

  4. 4

    Saito, R., Fujita, M., Dresselhaus, G. & Dresselhaus, M. S. Electronic structure of chiral graphene tubules. Appl. Phys. Lett. 60, 2204–2206 (1992).

  5. 5

    Saito, R., Fujita, M., Dresselhaus, G. & Dresselhaus, M. S. Electronic structure of graphene tubules based on C60. Phys. Rev. B 46, 1804–1811 (1992).

  6. 6

    Zhang, Z. & Lieber, C. M. Nanotube structure and electronic properties probed by STM. Appl. Phys. Lett. 62, 2972–2974 (1993).

  7. 7

    Olk, C. H. & Heremans, J. P. Scanning tunneling spectroscopy of carbon nanotubes. J. Mater. Res. 9, 259–262 (1994).

  8. 8

    Ge, M. & Sattler, K. Vapor-condensation generation and STM analysis of fullerene tubes. Science 260, 515–518 (1993).

  9. 9

    Carroll, D. L. et al. Electronic structure and localized states at carbon nanotube tips. Phys. Rev. Lett. 78, 2811–2814 (1997).

  10. 10

    Ge, M. & Sattler, K. STM of single-shell nanotubes of carbon. Appl. Phys. Lett. 65, 2284–2286 (1994).

  11. 11

    Thess, A. et al. Crystalline ropes of metallic carbon nanotubes. Science 273, 483–487 (1996).

  12. 12

    Journet, C. et al. Large-scale production of single-walled carbon nanotubes by the electric-arc technique. Nature 388, 756–758 (1997).

  13. 13

    Stroscio, J. A. & Feenstra, R. M. in Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (eds Stroscio, J. A. & Kaiser, W. J.) 95–141 (Academic, New York, (1993)).

  14. 14

    Everson, M. P., Jaklevic, R. C. & Shen, W. Measurement of the local density of states on a metal surface: Scanning tunneling spectroscopic imaging of Au(111). J. Vac. Sci. Technol. A 8, 3662–3665 (1990).

  15. 15

    Rao, A. M. et al. Diameter-selective Raman scattering from vibrational modes in carbon nanotubes. Science 275, 187–191 (1997).

  16. 16

    Fischer, J. E. et al. Metallic resistivity in crystalline ropes of single-wall carbon nanotubes. Phys. Rev. B 55, 4921–4924 (1997).

  17. 17

    Lee, R. S., Kim, H. J., Fischer, J. E., Thess, A. & Smalley, R. E. Conductivity enhancement in single-walled carbon nanotube bundles doped with K and Br. Nature 388, 255–257 (1997).

Download references


We thank J. Liu and R. E. Smalley for discussions and samples, and D. Vezenov for help with the Au deposition. T.W.O. acknowledges fellowship support from the US NSF. This work was supported by the NSF Division of Materials Research.

Author information

Correspondence to Charles M. Lieber.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.