Electrostatic screening between carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in a small CNT bundle leads to a switching behavior induced by electric field perpendicular to the bundle axis. Using a first-principles method, we investigate the electronic structures of bundles consisting of two or three CNTs and the effects of the electric field applied perpendicular to the bundle axis. The applied field causes band gap closure in semiconducting bundles, while a gap opening occurs in metallic ones, which enables considerable modulation of bundle conductivity. The modulation effect originates from symmetry breaking due to electrostatic screening between the adjacent tube walls.

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