Measurements of near-ultimate strength for multiwalled carbon nanotubes and irradiation-induced crosslinking improvements

Nat Nanotechnol. 2008 Oct;3(10):626-31. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2008.211. Epub 2008 Aug 10.


The excellent mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes are being exploited in a growing number of applications from ballistic armour to nanoelectronics. However, measurements of these properties have not achieved the values predicted by theory due to a combination of artifacts introduced during sample preparation and inadequate measurements. Here we report multiwalled carbon nanotubes with a mean fracture strength >100 GPa, which exceeds earlier observations by a factor of approximately three. These results are in excellent agreement with quantum-mechanical estimates for nanotubes containing only an occasional vacancy defect, and are approximately 80% of the values expected for defect-free tubes. This performance is made possible by omitting chemical treatments from the sample preparation process, thus avoiding the formation of defects. High-resolution imaging was used to directly determine the number of fractured shells and the chirality of the outer shell. Electron irradiation at 200 keV for 10, 100 and 1,800 s led to improvements in the maximum sustainable loads by factors of 2.4, 7.9 and 11.6 compared with non-irradiated samples of similar diameter. This effect is attributed to crosslinking between the shells. Computer simulations also illustrate the effects of various irradiation-induced crosslinking defects on load sharing between the shells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Crystallization / methods
  • Elastic Modulus / radiation effects
  • Electrochemical Techniques / methods
  • Electronics / instrumentation
  • Electronics / methods
  • Electrons*
  • Materials Testing / methods*
  • Micro-Electrical-Mechanical Systems / methods
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission / methods
  • Nanotechnology / instrumentation
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / chemistry*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / radiation effects*
  • Radiation
  • Tensile Strength* / radiation effects


  • Nanotubes, Carbon