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Nanotechnology advances with new Nanotubes Automation Technology

August 21st 2005

Nanotechnology advances with the new nanotubes automation process

Nanotube farms with close-up

A joint effort between the University of Texas and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has created industrial-ready material made of nanotubes. The scientists reported this in the Friday edition of the journal Science. 

The nanotubes are made of carbon and possess incredible strength. The sheets of nanotubes measure just a few times wider than the actual carbon atom, or 2 millionths-of-an-inch (2000 times thinner than paper).  A square mile of this will could weigh as little as 170 pounds.  The sheets are transparent, flexible and stronger than steel or high strength plastics.  

The sheets will emit light when they are heated.  The nanotubes are similar to solar cells because they can produce electricity when exposed to sunlight.  It is hoped that other future applications can be developed including artificial muscles, faster race cars and better batteries. 

The sheets can be produced very quickly.  The real breakthrough is the automated process that can produce a 2 ¾ inch (5 centimeters) wide strip at a rate of 47 feet per minute. Previous methods have been much slower.  

 

"Rarely is a processing advance so elegantly simple that rapid commercialization seems possible," says Ray Baughman, a chemist from the University of Texas at Dallas.  The process starts “with a 'forest' of half-millimeter-long nanotubes sticking upright on an iron-based platform. Pulling gently from the edge of the forest with an adhesive strip, such as a Post-It note, uproots a row containing millions of nanotubes. As these nanotubes pull out, they tangle with the next row, and so on.”

Previously the most common way of making large sheets of nanotubes relied on a labor-intensive technique.  Nanotubes were suspended in a solvent were slowly filtered to create a mat, which was then dried and peeled off the filter.

The technology is moving very quickly.  Recently the US government has made nanotechnology a research priority.  This research was funded in part by the US taxpayer, the Department of Defense and the State of Texas along with some nanotechnology labs.  Patents are being filed quickly for various applications.  "Things move quickly if you can prove that the supply of the material is good," says Baughman.

 

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By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer
 

  Books on Nanotechnology

Keywords and misspellings:  nanotube nanotech nanatechnology nano tequnology tecknology


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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:45 PM