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Carbon Nanotube-Based Compliant Mechanisms

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) may be used to create nanoscale compliant mechanisms that possess large ranges of motion relative to their device size. Many macroscale compliant mechanisms contain compliant elements that are subjected to fixed-clamped boundary conditions, indicating that they may be of value in nanoscale design. The combination of boundary conditions and large strains yield deformations at the tube ends and strain stiffening along the length of the tube, which are not observed in macroscale analogs. In this project molecular dynamics simulations are used to help model and design a nanoscale linear bearing system. These simulations show that the large-deflection behavior of a fixed-clamped CNT is not well-predicted by macroscale large-deflection beam bending models or truss models. However, pseudo-rigid-body modeling may be adapted to capture the strain stiffening behavior and, thereby, predict a CNT’s fixed-clamped behavior with less than 3% error from molecular simulations. The resulting pseudo-rigid-body model may be used to set initial design parameters for CNT-based compliant mechanisms. This removes the need for iterative, time-intensive molecular simulations during initial design phases.