In situ observation of reversible rippling in multi-walled boron nitride nanotubes

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, Department of Physics


The recent observation of high flexibility in buckled boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) contradicts the pre-existing belief about BN nanotube brittleness due to the partially ionic character of bonding between the B and N atoms. However, the underlying mechanisms and relationships within the nanotube remained unexplored. This study reports for the first time the buckling mechanism in multi-walled BNNTs upon severe mechanical deformation. Individual BNNTs were deformed inside a transmission electron microscope (TEM) equipped with an in situ atomic force microscopy holder. High-resolution TEM images revealed that bent BNNTs form multiple rippling upon buckling. The critical strain to form the first ripple was measured as 4.1% and the buckling process was reversible up to 26% strain. As opposed to carbon nanotubes, the BNNTs buckled into V-shaped ripples rather than smooth wavy shapes. The rippling wavelength was quantified in terms of the outer diameter and thickness of the nanotubes. The BNNTs showed a larger rippling wavelength compared to that of CNTs with the same number of walls. This difference was explained by the tendency of BN structures to reduce the number of thermodynamically unfavorable B–B and N–N bonds at the sharp corners in the rippling regions. The BNNTs' structure also exhibited a higher fracture strain compared to their counterpart.

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©2011 IOP Publishing Ltd. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1088/0957-4484/22/11/115702

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