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Single-walled carbon nanotubes are strongly correlated systems with large Coulomb repulsion between two electrons occupying the same $p_z$ orbital. Within a molecular Hamiltonian appropriate for correlated $\pi$-electron systems, we show that optical excitations polarized parallel to the nanotube axes in the so-called metallic single-walled carbon nanotubes are to excitons. Our calculated absolute exciton energies in twelve different metallic single-walled carbon nanotubes, with diameters in the range 0.8 - 1.4 nm, are in nearly quantitative agreement with experimental results. We have also calculated the absorption spectrum for the (21,21) single-walled carbon nanotube in the E$_{22}$ region. Our calculated spectrum gives an excellent fit to the experimental absorption spectrum. In all cases our calculated exciton binding energies a...
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