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Field-dependent electrical properties of carbon nanotubes from first-principles: negative differential conductance, current oscillations and molecular sensing

Authors: Jaime Silva, B. F. Milne, F. Nogueira

Ref.: J. Phys.-Condes. Matter 32, 135502 (2020)

Abstract: In certain materials, and for certain voltage ranges, electrical current flowing through the material decreases when the voltage across the sample is increased. This negative differential conductance (NDC) is important for oscillators, amplifiers, and fast switching devices. In this work, using real time quantum simulations, we show that this phenomenon occurs in isolated finite armchair single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) without end contacts. For metallic SWCNT, like the armchair SWCNT, electron transfer to secondary valleys—the most common cause of NDC—is not expected to be observed, as there are two quantum channels at the Fermi energy available for conduction. The NDC is due to the finite nature of the SWCNT and the existence of excited states that are blocked, similarly to a Coulomb blockade system, thus preventing any further current flow. We also show that the SWCNT conductivity depends on its length and that the current flowing on the SWCNT behaves like a Bloch oscillation that is disrupted in the presence of a molecule, decreasing the conductivity, and thus providing a rationalisation for the behaviour of SWCNT organic gas sensors.

DOI: 10.1088/1361-648X/ab5f47