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Nano 'kites' may lead to nanotube growth
Written by Gizmo   
Thursday, 06 August 2009 10:30

By Darren Quick

Researchers at Houston’s Rice University have developed a method for making bundles of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) dubbed “odako”. Eventually, the method may realize meter-long strands of nanotubes that are no wider than a piece of DNA which could be used in lightweight, super-efficient power-transmission lines, in ultra-strong and lightning-resistant materials for airplanes, and may also prove useful in batteries, fuel cells and microelectronics.

The “odako” bundles feature many lines trailing from them so take their name from the gigantic traditional Japanese kites they resemble that take many hands to fly. In this case the lines are hollow cylinders of pure carbon that are individually many times smaller than a living cell. The method of producing them developed by the team at Rice University creates bundles of SWNT that are sometimes measured in centimeters and could eventually yield tubes of unlimited length.

The process starts with the printing process the U.S. Treasury uses to embed paper money with unique markings that make currency difficult to counterfeit to create thin layers of iron and aluminum oxide on a Mylar roll. They then removed the layers and ground them into small flakes. These metallic flakes were then placed in furnace inside a mesh cage where they would lift off and “fly” in a flowing chemical vapor. As they flew, arrays of nanotubes grew vertically from the iron particles in tight, forest-like formations.


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