Rotational actuators based on carbon nanotubes


Nanostructures are of great interest not only for their basic scientific richness, but also because they have the potential to revolutionize critical technologies. The miniaturization of electronic devices over the past century has profoundly affected human communication, computation, manufacturing and transportation systems. True molecular-scale electronic devices are now emerging that set the stage for future integrated nanoelectronics1. Recently, there have been dramatic parallel advances in the miniaturization of mechanical and electromechanical devices2. Commercial microelectromechanical systems now reach the submillimetre to micrometre size scale, and there is intense interest in the creation of next-generation synthetic nanometre-scale electromechanical systems3,4. We report on the construction and successful operation of a fully synthetic nanoscale electromechanical actuator incorporating a rotatable metal plate, with a multi-walled carbon nanotube serving as the key motion-enabling element.

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Figure 1: Integrated synthetic NEMS actuator.
Figure 2: Series of SEM images showing the actuator rotor plate at different angular displacements.
Figure 3: Two SEM images captured from a video recording of an a.c.-voltage-driven actuator ‘flipping’ between the extremal horizontal positions (90° and 270°).


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We thank N. Bodzin for assistance with graphics. This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, and by the Director, Office of Energy Research, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences Division of the US Department of Energy.

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Correspondence to A. Zettl.

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Fennimore, A., Yuzvinsky, T., Han, W. et al. Rotational actuators based on carbon nanotubes. Nature 424, 408–410 (2003).

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