Topics: Carbon Nanotubes, Electrical Engineering, Nanotechnology, Semiconductor Technology
Just as many of us might be resigned to clogged salt shakers or rush-hour traffic, those working to exploit the special properties of carbon nanotubes have typically shrugged their shoulders when these tiniest of cylinders fill with water during processing. But for nanotube practitioners who have reached their Popeye threshold and “can’t stands no more,” the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has devised a cheap, quick and effective strategy that reliably enhances the quality and consistency of the materials—important for using them effectively in applications such as new computing technologies.
To prevent filling of the cores of single-wall carbon nanotubes with water or other detrimental substances, the NIST researchers advise intentionally prefilling them with a desired chemical of known properties. Taking this step before separating and dispersing the materials, usually done in water, yields a consistently uniform collection of nanotubes. In quantity and quality, the results are superior to water-filled nanotubes, especially for optical applications such as sensors and photodetectors.
The approach opens a straightforward route for engineering the properties of single-wall carbon nanotubes—rolled up sheets of carbon atoms arranged like chicken wire or honey combs—with improved or new properties.
“This approach is so easy, inexpensive and broadly useful that I can’t think of a reason not to use it,” said NIST chemical engineer Jeffrey Fagan.
Simpler, Faster and Cheaper: A Full-filling Approach to Making Carbon Nanotubes of Consistent Quality, Mark Bello