Experimental-computational study of shear interactions within double-walled carbon nanotube bundles

Tobin Filleter, Scott Yockel, Mohammad Naraghi, Jeffrey T. Paci, Owen C. Compton, Maricris L. Mayes, Sonbinh T. Nguyen, George C. Schatz, Horacio D. Espinosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The mechanical behavior of carbon nanotube (CNT)-based fibers and nanocomposites depends intimately on the shear interactions between adjacent tubes. We have applied an experimental-computational approach to investigate the shear interactions between adjacent CNTs within individual double-walled nanotube (DWNT) bundles. The force required to pull out an inner bundle of DWNTs from an outer shell of DWNTs was measured using in situ scanning electron microscopy methods. The normalized force per CNT-CNT interaction (1.7 ± 1.0 nN) was found to be considerably higher than molecular mechanics (MM)-based predictions for bare CNTs (0.3 nN). This MM result is similar to the force that results from exposure of newly formed CNT surfaces, indicating that the observed pullout force arises from factors beyond what arise from potential energy effects associated with bare CNTs. Through further theoretical considerations we show that the experimentally measured pullout force may include small contributions from carbonyl functional groups terminating the free ends of the CNTs, corrugation of the CNT-CNT interactions, and polygonization of the nanotubes due to their mutual interactions. In addition, surface functional groups, such as hydroxyl groups, that may exist between the nanotubes are found to play an unimportant role. All of these potential energy effects account for less than half of the ∼1.7 nN force. However, partially pulled-out inner bundles are found not to pull back into the outer shell after the outer shell is broken, suggesting that dissipation is responsible for more than half of the pullout force. The sum of force contributions from potential energy and dissipation effects are found to agree with the experimental pullout force within the experimental error.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)732-742
Number of pages11
JournalNano letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 8 2012


  • Carbon nanotube bundles
  • double-walled nanotubes
  • hierarchical structure
  • in situ SEM testing
  • shear interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • General Materials Science


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