Annual Report FY 2004 - Research at Cornell

17. Tunable Nanotube Oscillator

Paul L. McEuen, Physics, and research colleagues created an electromechanical oscillator that could possibly weigh a single atom. This tiny device, made using a carbon nanotube, can be tuned across a wide range of radio frequencies. Previous experiments with nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) used vibrating silicon rods so small that they oscillate at radio frequencies. McEuen’s research group replaced the silicon rods with a carbon nanotube to create an even smaller and more durable oscillator. Carbon nanotubes are cylinders of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern similar to that of a buckyball. The Cornell device consists of a carbon nanotube that is one to four nanometers in diameter and about one-and-a-half micrometers long. In addition to use as a detector in a radio-frequency device, such as a cellular phone (which constantly changes operating frequency to avoid conflict with other phones), the device may be used in mass sensing and basic research.

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