Effects of tip-nanotube interactions on atomic force microscopy imaging of carbon nanotubes

Rouholla Alizadegan, Albert D. Liao, Feng Xiong, Eric Pop, K. Jimmy Hsia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine the effect of van der Waals (vdW) interactions between atomic force microscope tips and individual carbon nanotubes (CNTs) supported on SiO 2. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations reveal how CNTs deform during atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurement, irrespective of the AFM tip material. The apparent height of a single- (double-) walled CNT can be used to estimate its diameter up to ~2 nm (~3 nm), but for larger diameters the CNT cross-section is no longer circular. Our simulations were compared against CNT dimensions obtained from AFM measurements and resonant Raman spectroscopy, with good agreement for the smaller CNT diameters. In general, AFM measurements of large-diameter CNTs must be interpreted with care, but the reliability of the approach is improved if knowledge of the number of CNT walls is available, or if additional verification (e. g., by optical techniques) can be obtained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-247
Number of pages13
JournalNano Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • atomic force microscopy (AFM)
  • Carbon nanotube (CNT)
  • diameter
  • tip-nanotube interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Materials Science


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