Ultrasonic cutting of individual silver nanowires by a linearly vibrating micro tool
We demonstrate the fabrication and testing of a prototype microtome knife based on a multiwalled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) for cutting approximately 100 nm thick slices of frozen-hydrated biological samples. A piezoelectric-based 3D manipulator was used inside a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to select and position individual MWCNTs, which were subsequently welded in place using electron beam-induced deposition. The knife is built on a pair of tungsten needles with provision to adjust the distance between the needle tips, accommodating various lengths of MWCNTs. We performed experiments to test the mechanical strength of a MWCNT in the completed device using an atomic force microscope tip. An increasing force was applied at the mid-point of the nanotube until failure occurred, which was observed in situ in the SEM. The maximum breaking force was approximately (8 x 10(-7)) N which corresponds well with the typical microtome cutting forces reported in the literature. In situ cutting experiments were performed on a cell biological embedding plastic (epoxy) by pushing it against the nanotube. Initial experiments show indentation marks on the epoxy surface. Quantitative analysis is currently limited by the surface asperities, which have the same dimensions as the nanotube.