Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department



Rao, Apparao M

Committee Member

Skove, Malcolm J.

Committee Member

Hartmann, Dieter H.

Committee Member

DeVol, Timothy A.

Committee Member

Serkiz, Steven M.


Recent advances in low dimensional materials (LDMs) have paved the way for unprecedented technological advancements. The drive to reduce the dimensions of electronics has compelled researchers to devise newer techniques to not only synthesize novel materials, but also tailor their properties. Although micro and nanomaterials have shown phenomenal electronic properties, their mechanical robustness and a thorough understanding of their structure-property relationship are critical for their use in practical applications. However, the challenges in probing these mechanical properties dramatically increase as their dimensions shrink, rendering the commonly used techniques inadequate. This Dissertation focuses on developing techniques for accurate determination of elastic modulus of LDMs and their mechanical responses under tensile and shear stresses. Fibers with micron-sized diameters continuously undergo tensile and shear deformations through many phases of their processing and applications. Significant attention has been given to their tensile response and their structure-tensile properties relations are well understood, but the same cannot be said about their shear responses or the structure-shear properties. This is partly due to the lack of appropriate instruments that are capable of performing direct shear measurements. In an attempt to fill this void, this Dissertation describes the design of an inexpensive tabletop instrument, referred to as the twister, which can measure the shear modulus (G) and other longitudinal shear properties of micron-sized individual fibers. An automated system applies a pre-determined twist to the fiber sample and measures the resulting torque using a sensitive optical detector. The accuracy of the instrument was verified by measuring G for high purity copper and tungsten fibers. Two industrially important fibers, IM7 carbon fiber and Kevlar® 119, were found to have G = 17 and 2.4 GPa, respectively. In addition to measuring the shear properties directly on a single strand of fiber, the technique was automated to allow hysteresis, creep and fatigue studies. Zinc oxide (ZnO) semiconducting nanostructures are well known for their piezoelectric properties and are being integrated into several nanoelectro-mechanical (NEMS) devices. In spite of numerous studies on the mechanical response of ZnO nanostructures, there is not a consensus in its measured bending modulus (E). In this Dissertation, by employing an all-electrical Harmonic Detection of Resonance (HDR) technique on ZnO nanowhisker (NW) resonators, the underlying origin for electrically-induced mechanical oscillations in a ZnO NW was elucidated. Based on visual detection and electrical measurement of mechanical resonances under a scanning electron microscope (SEM), it was shown that the use of an electron beam as a resonance detection tool alters the intrinsic electrical character of the ZnO NW, and makes it difficult to identify the source of the charge necessary for the electrostatic actuation. A systematic study of the amplitude of electrically actuated as-grown and gold-coated ZnO NWs in the presence (absence) of an electron beam using an SEM (dark-field optical microscope) suggests that the oscillations seen in our ZnO NWs are due to intrinsic static charges. In experiments involving mechanical resonances of micro and nanostructured resonators, HDR is a tool for detecting transverse resonances and E of the cantilever material. To add to this HDR capability, a novel method of measuring the G using HDR is presented. We used a helically coiled carbon nanowire (HCNW) in singly-clamped cantilever configuration, and analyzed the complex (transverse and longitudinal) resonance behavior of the nonlinear geometry. Accordingly, a synergistic protocol was developed which (i) integrated analytical, numerical (i.e., finite element using COMSOL ®) and experimental (HDR) methods to obtain an empirically validated closed form expression for the G and resonance frequency of a singly-clamped HCNW, and (ii) provided an alternative for solving 12th order differential equations. A visual detection of resonances (using in situ SEM) combined with HDR revealed intriguing non-planar resonance modes at much lower driving forces relative to those needed for linear carbon nanotube cantilevers. Interestingly, despite the presence of mechanical and geometrical nonlinearities in the HCNW resonance behavior, the ratio of the first two transverse modes f2/f1 was found to be similar to the ratio predicted by the Euler-Bernoulli theorem for linear cantilevers.

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