Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Exceptionally high Young's modulus observed for individual carbon nanotubes


CARBON nanotubes are predicted to have interesting mechanical properties—in particular, high stiffness and axial strength—as a result of their seamless cylindrical graphitic structure1–5. Their mechanical properties have so far eluded direct measurement, however, because of the very small dimensions of nanotubes. Here we estimate the Young's modulus of isolated nanotubes by measuring, in the transmission electron microscope, the amplitude of their intrinsic thermal vibrations. We find that carbon nanotubes have exceptionally high Young's moduli, in the terapascal (TPa) range. Their high stiffness, coupled with their low density, implies that nanotubes might be useful as nanoscale fibres in strong, lightweight composite materials.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Ebbesen, T. W. A. Rev. Mater. Sci. 24, 235–264 (1994).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Overney, G., Zhong, W. & Tomanek, D. Z. Phys. D27, 93–96 (1993).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Robertson, D. H., Brenner, D. W. & Mintmire, J. W. Phys. Rev. B45, 12592–12595 (1992).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Calvert, P. Nature 357, 365–366 (1992).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Dresselhaus, M. S., Dresselhaus, G., Sugihara, K., Spain, I. L. & Goldberg, H. A. in Graphite Fibers and Filaments Ch. 6 (eds Gonser, U., Mooradian, A., Muller, K. A., Panish, M. B. & Sakaki, H.) 120–152 (Springer, New York, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Ebbesen, T. W. & Ajayan, P. M. Nature 358, 220–222 (1992).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Kreyszig, E. Advanced Engineering Mathematics 7th edn. 643–644 (Wiley, New York, 1993).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  8. Jacobsen, R. L., Tritt, T. M., Guth, J. R., Ehrlich, A. C. & Gillespie, D. J. Carbon 33, 1217–1221 (1995).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Bacon, R. J. appl. Phys. 31, 283–290 (1960).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Treacy, M., Ebbesen, T. & Gibson, J. Exceptionally high Young's modulus observed for individual carbon nanotubes. Nature 381, 678–680 (1996).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


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.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing