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Carbon nanotube intramolecular junctions

Abstract

The ultimate device miniaturization would be to use individual molecules as functional devices. Single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are promising candidates for achieving this: depending on their diameter and chirality, they are either one-dimensional metals or semiconductors1,2. Single-electron transistors employing metallic nanotubes3,4 and field-effect transistors employing semiconducting nanotubes5 have been demonstrated. Intramolecular devices have also been proposed which should display a range of other device functions6,7,8,9,10,11. For example, by introducing a pentagon and a heptagon into the hexagonal carbon lattice, two tube segments with different atomic and electronic structures can be seamlessly fused together to create intramolecular metal–metal, metal–semiconductor, or semiconductor–semiconductor junctions. Here we report electrical transport measurements on SWNTs with intramolecular junctions. We find that a metal–semiconductor junction behaves like a rectifying diode with nonlinear transport characteristics that are strongly asymmetric with respect to bias polarity. In the case of a metal–metal junction, the conductance appears to be strongly suppressed and it displays a power-law dependence on temperatures and applied voltage, consistent with tunnelling between the ends of two Luttinger liquids. Our results emphasize the need to consider screening and electron interactions when designing and modelling molecular devices. Realization of carbon-based molecular electronics will require future efforts in the controlled production of these intramolecular nanotube junctions.

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Figure 1: Tapping-mode atomic force microscope amplitude images of examples of nanotube junction devices.
Figure 2: Current–voltage characteristics across the metal–semiconductor junction of Fig. 1a, showing rectifying behaviour.
Figure 3: Linear-response two-probe conductances G of segments I and II and across the metal–metal junction of Fig. 1b, plotted against temperature T on a double-logarithmic scale.
Figure 4: Large-bias transport characteristics measured across the metal–metal junction of Fig. 1b.

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Acknowledgements

We thank R. E. Smalley and co-workers for providing the indispensable single-wall carbon nanotube materials, M. P. Anantram, S. J. Tans and A. A. Odintsov for helpful discussions, V. Meunier for the atomic coordinates used in Fig. 1c, and M. de Jonge and A. van den Enden for experimental assistance. The work was supported by the Dutch Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM).

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Correspondence to Cees Dekker.

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Yao, Z., Postma, H., Balents, L. et al. Carbon nanotube intramolecular junctions. Nature 402, 273–276 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1038/46241

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