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Optically induced birefringence in hybrid organic-inorganic carbon nanotube films

Faculty Mentor: David McGee

Students: Mina Shenouda

Carbon nanotubes constitute a relatively new class of nanostructures with unique mechanical, electronic, and optical properties. They find applications in multiple technologies such as microelectronics, image display, and optical sensing.  One particularly promising architecture is functionalized carbon nanotubes, in which an optically active azobenzene chromophore is bound to the nanotube surface.  The chromophore can switch between trans and cis configurations in the presence of light, a property which can then be used to optically modulate the electronic properties of the nanotube.  In this research, Mina Shenouda worked under the mentorship of Dr. David McGee to build an experiment to measure the photoswitching properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes functionalized with the commercially available azo dye Disperse Red 1.  The experiments focused on measuring subtle changes in refractive index while the nanotube-chromophore samples were irradiated with an Argon laser.  Preliminary results using modest laser powers of 1 mW revealed refractive index changes of 0.01 for nanometer-thick samples, which is sufficient for many proposed applications.