Transport Phenomena in Nanowires, Nanotubes, and Other Low-Dimensional Systems

  • Enrique Montes Muñoz

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Nanoscale materials are not new in either nature or physics. However, the recent technological improvements have given scientists new tools to understand and quantify phenomena that occur naturally due to quantum confinement effects. In general, these phenomena induce remarkable optical, magnetic, and electronic properties in nanoscale materials in contrast to their bulk counterpart. In addition, scientists have recently developed the necessary tools to control and exploit these properties in electronic devices, in particular field effect transistors, magnetic memories, and gas sensors. In the present thesis we implement theoretical and computational tools for analyzing the ground state and electronic transport properties of nanoscale materials and their performance in electronic devices. The ground state properties are studied within density functional theory using the SIESTA code, whereas the transport properties are investigated using the non-equilibrium Green's functions formalism implemented in the SMEAGOL code. First we study Si-based systems, as Si nanowires are believed to be important building blocks of the next generation of electronic devices. We derive the electron transport properties of Si nanowires connected to Au electrodes and their dependence on the nanowire growth direction, diameter, and length. At equilibrium Au-nanowire distance we find strong electronic coupling between electrodes and nanowire, resulting in low contact resistance. For the tunneling regime, the decay of the conductance with the nanowire length is rationalized using the complex band structure. The nanowires grown along the (110) direction show the smallest decay and the largest conductance and current. Due to the high spin coherence in Si, Si nanowires represent an interesting platform for spin devices. Therefore, we built a magnetic tunneling junction by connecting a (110) Si nanowire to ferromagnetic Fe electrodes. We have find a substantial low bias magnetoresistance of ~ 200%, which halves for an applied voltage of about 0.35 V and persist up to 1 V. In order to account for shallow impurities coming from bulk Si, the nanowire is doped with either P or B atoms (n or p type). Doping in general decreases the magnetoresistance as soon as the conductance is no longer dominated by tunneling. On the other hand, we study the electron transport properties of Si nanotubes connected to Au electrodes. The general properties turn out to be largely independent of the nanotube chirality, diameter, and length. However, the tunneling conductance of Si nanotubes is found to be significantly larger than in Si nanowires, while having a comparable band gap. For this reason we simulate a Si nanotube field effect transistor by applying an uniform potential gate. Our results demonstrate very high values of the transconductance, outperforming the best commercial Si field effect transistors, combined with low values of the subthreshold swing. Phosphorene (monolayer black P) is the only elemental two-dimensional material besides graphene that can be mechanically exfoliated and also can support electronics. Specific dislocations of the atoms in the phosphorene lattice generate another stable two-dimensional allotrope with buckled honeycomb lattice, blue P. We demonstrate structural stability of monolayer zigzag and armchair blue P nanotubes by means of molecular dynamics simulations. The vibrational spectrum and electronic band structure are determined and analyzed as functions of the tube diameter and axial strain. The nanotubes are found to be semiconductors with a sensitive indirect band gap that allows flexible tuning. We study the adsorption of CO, CO2, NH3, NO, and NO2 molecules on blue P nanotubes. They are found to surpass the gas sensing performance of other nanoscale materials. Investigations of the gas adsorption and induced charge transfer indicate that blue P nanotubes are highly sensitive to N-based molecules, in particular NO2, due to covalent bonding. The current-voltage characteristics of nanotubes connected to Au electrodes is used to evaluate the change in resistivity upon adsorption. The observed selectivity and sensitivity properties make blue P nanotubes superior gas sensors for a wide range of applications. Using black P and blue P nanoribbons, we configure field effect transistors with atomically perfect junctions by using armchair nanoribbons as semiconducting channel and zigzag nanoribbons as metallic leads. We characterize the devices and observe a performance superior to Si-based devices, with on/off ratio of ~ 103, low subthreshold swing of ~ 60 mV/decade, and high transconductance of ~ 104 S/m.
Date of AwardJan 2017
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorUdo Schwingenschloegl (Supervisor)


  • Nanowires
  • Nanotubes
  • Filed effect transistor
  • Gas Sensor
  • DFT
  • NEGF - Transport

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