In this paper, to investigate the buckling characteristics of carbon nanotubes, an equivalent beam model is first constructed. The molecular mechanics potentials in a C-C covalent bond are transformed into the form of equivalent strain energy stored in a three dimensional (3D) virtual beam element connecting two carbon atoms. Then, the equivalent stiffness parameters of the beam element can be estimated from the force field constants of the molecular mechanics theory. To evaluate the buckling loads of multi-walled carbon nanotubes, the effects of van-der Waals forces are further modeled using a newly proposed rod element. Then, the buckling characteristics of nanotubes can be easily obtained using a 3D beam and rod model of the traditional finite element method (FEM). The results of this numerical model are in good agreement with some previous results, such as those obtained from molecular dynamics computations. This method, designated as molecular structural mechanics approach, is thus proved to be an efficient means to predict the buckling characteristics of carbon nanotubes. Moreover, in the case of nanotubes with large length/diameter, the validity of Euler's beam buckling theory and a shell model with the proper material properties defined from the results of present 3D FEM beam model is investigated to reduce the computational cost. The results of these simple theoretical models are found to agree well with the existing experimental results.
- Carbon nanotube
- Molecular dynamics