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J Phys Condens Matter. 2010 Aug 25;22(33):334201. doi: 10.1088/0953-8984/22/33/334201. Epub 2010 Aug 4.

Structural, electronic, optical and vibrational properties of nanoscale carbons and nanowires: a colloquial review.

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Department of Physics, Penn State University, 104 Davey Lab MB123, University Park, PA 16802-6300, USA.


This review addresses the field of nanoscience as viewed through the lens of the scientific career of Peter Eklund, thus with a special focus on nanocarbons and nanowires. Peter brought to his research an intense focus, imagination, tenacity, breadth and ingenuity rarely seen in modern science. His goal was to capture the essential physics of natural phenomena. This attitude also guides our writing: we focus on basic principles, without sacrificing accuracy, while hoping to convey an enthusiasm for the science commensurate with Peter's. The term 'colloquial review' is intended to capture this style of presentation. The diverse phenomena of condensed matter physics involve electrons, phonons and the structures within which excitations reside. The 'nano' regime presents particularly interesting and challenging science. Finite size effects play a key role, exemplified by the discrete electronic and phonon spectra of C(60) and other fullerenes. The beauty of such molecules (as well as nanotubes and graphene) is reflected by the theoretical principles that govern their behavior. As to the challenge, 'nano' requires special care in materials preparation and treatment, since the surface-to-volume ratio is so high; they also often present difficulties of acquiring an experimental signal, since the samples can be quite small. All of the atoms participate in the various phenomena, without any genuinely 'bulk' properties. Peter was a master of overcoming such challenges. The primary activity of Eklund's research was to measure and understand the vibrations of atoms in carbon materials. Raman spectroscopy was very dear to Peter. He published several papers on the theory of phonons (Eklund et al 1995a Carbon 33 959-72, Eklund et al 1995b Thin Solid Films 257 211-32, Eklund et al 1992 J. Phys. Chem. Solids 53 1391-413, Dresselhaus and Eklund 2000 Adv. Phys. 49 705-814) and many more papers on measuring phonons (Pimenta et al 1998b Phys. Rev. B 58 16016-9, Rao et al 1997a Nature 338 257-9, Rao et al 1997b Phys. Rev. B 55 4766-73, Rao et al 1997c Science 275 187-91, Rao et al 1998 Thin Solid Films 331 141-7). His careful sample treatment and detailed Raman analysis contributed greatly to the elucidation of photochemical polymerization of solid C(60) (Rao et al 1993b Science 259 955-7). He developed Raman spectroscopy as a standard tool for gauging the diameter of a single-walled carbon nanotube (Bandow et al 1998 Phys. Rev. Lett. 80 3779-82), distinguishing metallic versus semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotubes, (Pimenta et al 1998a J. Mater. Res. 13 2396-404) and measuring the number of graphene layers in a peeled flake of graphite (Gupta et al 2006 Nano Lett. 6 2667-73). For these and other ground breaking contributions to carbon science he received the Graffin Lecture award from the American Carbon Society in 2005, and the Japan Carbon Prize in 2008. As a material, graphite has come full circle. The 1970s renaissance in the science of graphite intercalation compounds paved the way for a later explosion in nanocarbon research by illuminating many beautiful fundamental phenomena, subsequently rediscovered in other forms of nanocarbon. In 1985, Smalley, Kroto, Curl, Heath and O'Brien discovered carbon cage molecules called fullerenes in the soot ablated from a rotating graphite target (Kroto et al 1985 Nature 318 162-3). At that time, Peter's research was focused mainly on the oxide-based high-temperature superconductors. He switched to fullerene research soon after the discovery that an electric arc can prepare fullerenes in bulk quantities (Haufler et al 1990 J. Phys. Chem. 94 8634-6). Later fullerene research spawned nanotubes, and nanotubes spawned a newly exploding research effort on single-layer graphene. Graphene has hence evolved from an oversimplified model of graphite (Wallace 1947 Phys. Rev. 71 622-34) to a new member of the nanocarbon family exhibiting extraordinary electronic properties. Eklund's career spans this 35-year odyssey.

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