Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are a popular sample for various nanotechnology studies. However, they are very difficult to synthesize en masse. As a result, researchers have started looking at alternatives with similar properties. One of the candidates to replace CNTs in some nanocomposite materials is cellulose nanowhiskers (CNWs), structures that can be readily produced from plant sources. To determine the feasibility of substituting CNWs for CNTs, it is important to verify the two materials have similar morphologies and nanomechanical properties. One must first establish a baseline for comparison by accurately characterizing CNW properties at nanoscale. To this end, three CNW samples were examined using an atomic force microscope (AFM) with non-contact AFM mode and an AFM-based fast nanomechanical mode. The target properties for evaluation were the samples' topography to determine the nanowhiskers' size and shape and their Young's modulus values. The ensuing AFM measurements yielded topography data showing the nanowhiskers ranging from 100 to 1000 nm in length and 1 to 3 nm in width. Nanomechanical property data acquired with the AFM in fast nanomechanical mode demonstrated the CNW samples had a modulus value of approximately 180 GPa. Not only do these measurements establish a baseline CNW to CNT comparison for topography and a specific nanomechanical property, but they also demonstrate the viability of AFM as an effective tool for dimensional nanometrology and quantitative property measurements of novel nanocomposite components.Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, cellulose nanowhiskers, nanomechanical, topography, Young’s modulus
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