« General Electric Goes Solar? | Main | Watching for Disease »

100-Meter Nanotube Pull

No, it's not a new sport, it's the new record for a length of carbon nanotube. Given that the previous best length was around 30 centimeters, this is a bit of an improvement. The process sounds oddly familiar:

The carbon nanotubes are made by injecting ethanol into a fast-flowing stream of hydrogen gas. The gas carries the carbon-containing molecules into the centre of a furnace where temperatures soar above 1000° C.

The high temperature breaks the ethanol down and the carbon atoms reassemble into nanotubes, each about a micron in length. These float in the stream of hydrogen, loosely linked to each other in what Windle describes as an "elastic smoke".

When a rod is poked into this amorphous cloud, it catches a few nanotubes. Rotating the rod pulls on these, which in turn pull on their neighbours, dragging out a continuous thread of closely-aligned nanotubes. This wraps around the rod at a rate of centimetres per second.

It is similar to spinning wool, Windle told New Scientist: "You have this ball of entangled wool and you put a needle in to pull out the threads".

Spinning wool? Maybe. But it sounds more to me like making cotton candy.

But don't start planning your space elevator trip just yet; the nanotubes created by this method are nowhere near as tough or conductive as traditional carbon buckytubes. Still, it's a good step towards making this nanoscale material more usable in the macro world.

Image of traditional nanotubes from University of Basel Nanoscale Science Center


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 15, 2004 11:43 AM.

The previous post in this blog was General Electric Goes Solar?.

The next post in this blog is Watching for Disease.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.34