Nanotubes have thermal conductivity better than diamonds, electro-conductivity better than copper, and can withstand very high temperatures. Researchers at Kettering University have discovered a different method for producing nanotubes, which is one of the U.S. government's best-funded technology areas.
Nanotubes are tiny (ranging from 0.8 nanometers to 300 nanometers) structures capable of great things. They have strong planar carbon bonds, high tensile strength, are light and have lots of surface area. Nanotubes can also function as either conductors or semiconductors in electronic circuitry.
The Kettering team's procedure for creating nanotubes is "actually a simpler way of doing it than had previously been done," said Bahram Roughani, associate professor of Applied Physics. Established methods include arc discharge, laser ablation or pulsed laser vaporization (PLV), chemical vapor deposition and gas phase processes, such as high-pressure carbon monoxide (HiPCO).
Roughani and David Parker, professor of Applied Physics and director of Applied Optics, started the project with students John Henry, Flint, Mich.; Paul Thomas, Tyler, Texas; and Nadia Van Huffel, Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Kettering team used a laser but without special environments, just atmospheric pressure at room temperature and silicon carbide wafers, which they exposed to the laser. Most other methods use graphite as a starting substance.
To verify their find, they used Raman Spectroscopy, an interaction between laser light and a material that shows the frequency at which the material vibrates.
Nanotube research has potential market applications exceeding $230 million within five years. Potential applications include:
Building blocks for a ladder to the Space Station - 60,000 miles high to carry cargo and personnel, lowering the cost of putting a satellite into space from $10,000 a pound to $100. Electronics - better quality high-resolution display screens and smaller integrated circuitry for micro-processing.
Alternative energy research - Fuel cells need to store large amounts of hydrogen, which requires large amounts of surface area. Hollow carbon nanotubes have large amounts of external and internal surface area.
Medical applications - specifically in the internal delivery of drugs and drug therapies. Kettering University is an ABET-accredited engineering and technology university in Flint, Mich., and ranked among the top engineering schools in the nation by "U.S. News & World Report."
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Technique Could Help "Fine-Tune" Nanotube Based Material
Philadelphia - Dec 03, 2003
Materials fortified with carbon nanotubes are strongest when the embedded filaments run parallel to each other, but electronic and thermal conductivity are best when the nanotubes are oriented randomly. That the finding from a team of engineers at the University of Pennsylvania who have developed a production technique that permits a finer and more precise dispersion of nanotubes within a material.
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