Fluidic and dielectrophoretic manipulation of tin oxide nanobelts
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Nanobelts are a new class of semiconducting metal oxide nanowires with great potential for nanoscale devices. The present research focuses on the manipulation of SnO₂ nanobelts suspended in ethanol using microfluidics and electric fields. Dielectrophoresis (DEP) was demonstrated for the first time on semiconducting metal oxide nanobelts, which also resulted in the fabrication of a multiple nanobelt device. Detailed and direct real-time observations of the wide variety of nanobelt motions induced by DEP forces were conducted using an innovative setup and an inverted optical microscope. High AC electric fields were generated on a gold microelectrode (~ 20 µm gap) array, patterned on glass substrate, and covered by a ~ 10 µm tall PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane) channel, into which the nanobelt suspension was introduced for performing the DEP experiments. Negative DEP (repulsion) of the nanobelts was observed in the low frequency range (< 100 kHz) of the applied voltage, which caused rigid body motion as well as deformation of the nanobelts. In the high frequency range (~ 1 MHz - 10 MHz), positive DEP (attraction) of the nanobelts was observed. Using a parallel plate electrode arrangement, evidence of electrophoresis was also found for DC and low frequency (Hz) voltages. The existence of negative DEP effect is unusual considering the fact that if bulk SnO₂ conductivity and permittivity values are used in combination with ethanol properties to calculate the Clausius Mossotti factor using the simple dipole approximation theory; it predicts positive DEP for most of the frequency range experimentally studied. A fluidic nanobelt alignment technique was studied and used in the fabrication of single nanobelt devices with small electrode gaps. These devices were primarily used for conducting impedance spectroscopy measurements to obtain an estimate of the nanobelt electrical conductivity. Parametric numerical studies were conducted using COMSOL Multiphysics software package to understand the different aspects of the DEP phenomenon in nanobelts. The DEP induced forces and torques were computed using the Maxwell Stress Tensor (MST) approach. The DEP force on the nanobelt was calculated for a range of nanobelt conductivity values. The simulation results indicate that the experimentally observed behavior can be explained if the nanobelt is modeled as having two components: an electrically conductive interior and a nonconductive outer layer surrounding it. This forms the basis for an explanation of the negative DEP observed in SnO₂ nanobelts suspended in ethanol. It is thought that the nonconductive layer is due to depletion of the charge carriers from the nanobelt surface regions. This is consistent with the fact that surface depletion is a commonly observed phenomenon in SnO₂ and other semiconducting metal oxide materials. The major research contribution of this work is that, since nanostructures have large surface areas, surface dominant properties are important. Considering only bulk electrical properties can predict misleading DEP characteristics.