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New single-walled carbon nanotube sensors will benefit multiple branches of science.

For the better part of the last decade, producing carbon nanotubes (CNT) in a laboratory wasn't incredibly difficult. Only in the past few years have processes been used to create readily usable masses of science's latest popular, do-it-all wonder child. A new, novel method devised at the University of Warwick may not produce sheets of usable nanotubes, but that is what is so useful about it.

The procedure has allowed the Warwick researchers to create ready-made, highly sensitive ultramicroelectrodes (UME). Rather than being deposited in either a messy mat or a highly ordered line, the CNTs form a somewhat haphazard connection straight across the sensor's disc, establishing what can easily be used as an electric circuit. The group used lithography and chemical vapor deposition, rather than an aqueous solution, to deposit the CNTs on discs of silicon oxide.

One of the most important properties for the use of these UMEs as sensors is that the total surface area of the disc covered by the CNTs is less than one percent. The ultra-low footprint of the circuit on top of the non-conducting disc allows the sensor to more easily screen out noise and interference making them very useful in low signal to noise situations. The Warwick sensor outperforms conventional UMEs with a sensitivity of up to one thousand times greater.

Other possible benefits of the Warwick UME could lie in medical sciences and in research on fuel cell catalysis. Regarding the former, carbon is a much more biologically neutral material than the metals used in current UME sensors and probes, and could have less of an impact on patients' systems. The CNT sensors should be a better candidate for permanent or semi-permanent medical implants.

The team has already used the new UMEs to prove that it is CNTs themselves and not production impurities that make CNTs useful in fuel cell catalysis. In addition, the sensor's nanotubes are easily coated with metals using electrodeposition, and should prove useful to others using CNTs for catalysis research in fuel cells.

The use of fuel cells is expected to grow in the coming years as electronics manufacturers look to use the technology in mobile devices to replace batteries and auto manufacturers use the powerplants to produce highly-efficient, "green" cars and trucks.



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Okay?
By BansheeX on 5/8/2008 1:17:36 PM , Rating: 1
So let me get this straight. We could focus on companies making batteries cheaper and more efficient, moving towards hybrids and all electrics for vehicles. Or... we could focus on companies spending vast amounts of time and money to figure out some elaborate way to create another kind of fuel, which we could never make ourselves at home and which we would have to buy from somebody at a pump.

1) Who is that somebody and why are they so keen on fuel cells?
2) What will the cost be and does its manufacture open it up to volatility and corporate dependence?
3) Does it even make sense to use energy to create a fuel rather than just transferring that energy to a battery through the grid?

This isn't a question of pullution, both creating fuel cells and creating power for batteries requires a source of energy which will need to be changed to nuclear or something if you care about that. I'm simply talking about cost and practicality and what we consumers should be leaning towards right now.




RE: Okay?
By Spuke on 5/8/2008 1:30:11 PM , Rating: 3
You will lean towards what's offered to you. That is all.


RE: Okay?
By FITCamaro on 5/8/2008 1:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
While this is not necessarily a consumer friendly response, I think auto manufacturers are far more likely to support a solution that retains me and you going to a service station to fill up with fuel, regardless of what that fuel is. The job loss would likely be in the millions if every gas station in the country could no longer sell fuel since it was no longer used. Not to mention we'd have millions of vacant gas stations just sitting there rotting.

Good for the consumer, not necessarily. Good for the economy, definitely. And while we are developing batteries with larger capacities, the fact is batteries still take time to charge. An all electric vehicle cannot replace the internal combustion engine entirely until they can go 300-400 miles per charge and be recharged within a few minutes to full capacity with the battery lasting at least 10 years at said capacity.

Most families are not going to own (or even able to own) 3 cars so they have all their needs met. Two electric cars for day to day driving and a gas/diesel powered car for long trips.


RE: Okay?
By BansheeX on 5/8/2008 3:01:01 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Not to mention we'd have millions of vacant gas stations just sitting there rotting.

Good for the consumer, not necessarily. Good for the economy, definitely.


See, I think I disagree with this. Assuming that hybrids eventually get phased out completely many years later with better all-electrics, then the stations may indeed go belly up. They wouldn't "rot," they would get torn down and replaced with some other business trying to meet market demand elsewhere, which would also employ people. And the people who lost their jobs as station attendants would shift to some other sector. That's usually what happens when services became obsolete over history, like buggy manufacturers, etc. There have been countless others.

Furthermore, I see the electric electric/hybrid route being less costly than fuel cells for the consumer if they indeed choose that right now and reject the push for fuel cells. That would free up savings and investment, which is the real driving force of any stable economy. I think electric is also necessary to get people to focus on the grid rather than the "fuel". The fuel adds a step that makes the average person not think that they are getting energy from a "fuel" and not the grid which manufactures the fuel. So electric cars will lead to more nuclear plants faster, in my opinion.


RE: Okay?
By AlphaVirus on 5/8/2008 3:33:11 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They wouldn't "rot," they would get torn down and replaced with some other business trying to meet market demand elsewhere,

Have you ever seen a new business put over a plot of gas station land? Its very rare.

After a gas station has "soiled" a location, no other business may take that location. It becomes a hazardous area (not only above ground) but mostly below.

-Ex Oil & gas employee-


RE: Okay?
By OxBow on 5/8/2008 2:50:22 PM , Rating: 2
I can see several reasons to develop a fuel cell motor vehicle system off the top of my head not related to polution or Detroit.

First off, a fuel cell infrastructure will allows us to produce the fuel (hydrogen in it's three incarnations used in fuel cells) domestically. We're still going to need oil for plastics and polymers, but it doesn't make sense to burn fossil fuels when we need the oil for our petrochemical industries.

Secondly, while battery operated cars and even light trucks are going to be a part of our future, they are inherently impracticle for commercial use. Fuel cells could be used to power tractor trailers, delivery trucks, farm tractors, heavy equipment and even eventually locomotives. These vehicles are ill suited for an battery powered drive train, but a fuel cell could provide them with the power they need.

Thirdly, even under the best scenarios an all electric car is not going to fit the driving needs of many people. Fuel cell and fuel cell/battery hybrids will allow us to maintain a lifestyle that we have come to enjoy.

Finally, fuel cells can fit fairly easily into our present energy delivery system. Our service stations already have a raw infrastructure (vehicle access, signage, power service, etc.) that allow the relatively easy installation of new storage tanks and/or processing stations.

When you add in the environmental benefits of fuel cells over a fossil fuel system I really don't see where people can legitimately argue against the implementation of fuel cells. There are numerous technical details to deal with and are open to debate as to which flavor of fuel cell is best, but the general argument is pretty clear.


RE: Okay?
By spluurfg on 5/8/2008 3:14:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So let me get this straight. We could focus on companies making batteries cheaper and more efficient, moving towards hybrids and all electrics for vehicles. Or... we could focus on companies spending vast amounts of time and money to figure out some elaborate way to create another kind of fuel


Well, we're doing both right now, really... University research doesn't take vast resources away from regular battery development, nor are Universities really some evil somebody trying to lure you to rural filling stations late at night.

quote:
I'm simply talking about cost and practicality and what we consumers should be leaning towards right now.


We are obviously leaning towards batteries at this point, given the introduction of hybrid vehicles is much faster than that of commercial fuel cell vehicles. Which should we lean towards? Whichever is more economical, of course!

But that doesn't mean we should abandon all long-term research, which of course is also motivated in part by the forces of a free economy.


RE: Okay?
By BansheeX on 5/8/2008 5:17:03 PM , Rating: 2
That's good. I'm a huge advocate of the free market and I believe electric will win regardless, but I see a lot of advertising and news buzz around fuel cell and I'm wondering where the heck that is all funding is coming from. It seems odd that the big car companies are banking so heavily on it and touting its arrival to no end. Electric seems far more promising and sensible to me as consumer vehicles are concerned.


RE: Okay?
By phxfreddy on 5/8/2008 4:12:56 PM , Rating: 2
What ever makes money to a sufficient tune will be the solution we use. No amount of attempted monopoly is going to keep this from happening. With the price of oil headed north of 200 per barrel there are BILLIONS to be made by the guy who has the right / cheapest solution. I only with I was the guy so I could make all the girls kiss my apple sack!


RE: Okay?
By phxfreddy on 5/8/2008 4:14:18 PM , Rating: 2
with == WISH ....


RE: Okay?
By phxfreddy on 5/8/2008 4:36:02 PM , Rating: 2
and make that trillions ...not billions.


RE: Okay?
By elgueroloco on 5/8/2008 6:05:05 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, is it so happens, Honda is releasing (in a limited market in Southern CA) a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle this summer. With it, they are releasing the Home Energy Station, which produces hydrogen in your garage, allowing you to fuel at home. It also powers your house, and acts as your water heater. The current incarnation is powered by natural gas, but other means (grid, home solar, etc.) could be used to power it.

As for batteries, hydrogen is a battery. You pump electricity into water, and you get hydrogen and oxygen, however, fueling a hydrogen car would take far less time than charging a battery, as the charging takes place while you are out using the car.

For travellers away from home, commercial pumping stations would be needed. These stations could use hydrogen generated from sea water or reclaimed water. This would alleviate drinking water shortages, as the exhaust from the fuel cells is 100% pure water, which could be collected in a tank on the car and then used to drink (though I hear drinking distilled water is bad for some reason, so you'd probably want to add mineral tabs or something). Using sea water would be a great means of desalinating water, and also a way of producing salt that wouldn't involve salt ponds that mess up shoreline eco systems.

As for electric cars, within 4 years we should see electric cars capable of 1200-2500 miles on a single charge. Stanford University just developed a new technology called a silicon microfiber lithium ion battery, which can hold 10 times the charge of current Li-Ion batteries. Currently there are electric cars available which do 120 miles on a charge, or the Tesla Roadster, which does 250. Multiply by 10 and you've got 1200-2500 miles on a charge. They will probably charge at least as slowly, though, so still no instant fill-ups, but then you won't need them. You could go your entire vacation without recharging. This technology is expected to be available in consumer products within 4 years. Also, get ready for your cell phones and laptops to last 10x longer.


RE: Okay?
By elgueroloco on 5/8/2008 6:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, and as a further note, even once these new batteries have degraded to a fraction of their original capacity (let's say, only 300 miles per charge), they will still be useful to consumers, thus greatly extending the longevity of the battery.


RE: Okay?
By BansheeX on 5/8/2008 8:24:46 PM , Rating: 2
That is so freaking awesome if true. I wants my 1200 mile battery car.


By Cullinaire on 5/9/2008 5:19:59 AM , Rating: 2
Carbon Nanotubes - Check
Fuel Cells - Check
Something inevitably related to global warming/carbon imbalance - Check

A few important omissions:
RIAA/DRM - Nope
Apple/MSFT - Nope
PS3/X360/Wii - Nope
SSD - Nope

Nevermind, I guess there is a lot more that goes into the perfect DT headline than I thought.




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