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Researchers used carbon nanotubes for breakthrough

The storage and generation of electricity is a hotbed of scientific study around the world. New and improved methods of storing electricity have a myriad of potential uses from phones and laptops that run longer to new electric vehicles with much greater driving range.

At the center of much of the research in the storage and generation of power in batteries and other devices are carbon nanotubes. The carbon nanotube has been studied for decades and new advances over the last few years have made the nanotubes easier to produce and have offered breakthroughs in the use of carbon nanotubes. Scientists at Rice University made a breakthrough in carbon nanotube processing in November of 2009 that uses processes similar to those that have been employed in the plastics industry to make the production of carbon nanotubes in bulk much easier.

Researchers in late 2009 also found that defective carbon nanotubes are more efficient at storing energy than carbon nanotubes that are uniform in size. In February 2010, Bayer announced that it was opening the world's largest carbon nanotube production facility to develop carbon nanotubes dubbed "Baytubes" using multi-wall carbon nanotube technology. The facility is expected to produce about 200 metric tons of nanotubes each year.

Now, a team of researchers at MIT have announced that they have made a new breakthrough for producing electricity with carbon nanotubes. The discovery may one day lead to a myriad of new devices such as sensors the size of dust that can be dispersed in air to monitor the environment or the tech might lead to implantable devices that produce their own power. The researchers discovered a phenomenon that was previously unknown that produces powerful waved of energy that shoots though carbon nanotubes, producing electricity.

The team of researchers called the phenomenon "thermopower waves." MIT's Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Professor of Chemical Engineering, and senior author of the paper reporting the findings said, "[Thermopower waves] opens up a new area of energy research, which is rare."

The thermal wave is a moving pulse of heat that travels along the microscopic carbon nanotubes and drives electrons along with it creating an electrical current. The team coated carbon nanotubes with a highly reactive fuel that produces heat as it decomposes. The fuel was ignited at one end of the nanotube with a laser beam or high-voltage spark.

The resulting ignition created a fast moving thermal wave that travels about 10,000 times faster than the normal speed of the reaction according to the team. The temperature of the ring of heat reaches about 3,000 kelvins, pushing electrons along the tube creating a substantial electrical current. Strano says that the combustion waves have been mathematically studied for more than a hundred years, but he claims to be the first to predict that the combustion waves could be guided by a nanotube or nanowire and push an electrical current along the wire.

Strano says, "[In early experiments] lo and behold, we were really surprised by the size of the resulting voltage peak." He continued saying, "There's something else happening here. We call it electron entrainment since part of the current appears to scale with wave velocity.

Strano says that since the discovery is so new it is hard to predict how it could be used in practical application. The team plans to conduct more research using different kinds of reactive materials for the fuel coating and the team suspects that by using other materials for the coating the front of the wave could oscillate to produce an alternating current. The team points out that most of the power generated with the new method is given off as light and heat and work is ongoing to make the process more efficient.

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RE: Possibilities
By xxsk8er101xx on 3/8/2010 1:35:40 PM , Rating: 2
I sense sarcasm so let me educate you.

* carbon nanotubes have the highest strength to weight ratio of any known material

* Medical researchers are using this (1) property by attaching molecules that are attracted to cancer cells to nanotubes to deliver drugs directly to diseased cells.

* Companies are using this (2) property to develop sensors that can detect chemical vapors such as carbon monoxide or biological molecules.

* Single-walled carbon nanotubes have been highly touted for their potential as novel delivery agents for cancer detection and therapeutic agents. (3)

"Education is the road to understanding. Assuming is the road to ignorance."

1) property of nanotubes is that they can easily penetrate membrances.

2) Another interesting property of carbon nanotubes is that their electrical resistance changes significantly when other molecules attach themselves to the carbon atoms.


RE: Possibilities
By ratbert1 on 3/8/2010 2:00:52 PM , Rating: 2
I penetrated a membrance last night. I think. At lest that is my membrance of it.

RE: Possibilities
By DigitalFreak on 3/8/2010 2:09:30 PM , Rating: 4
Sheep don't count.

RE: Possibilities
By DougF on 3/8/2010 2:35:10 PM , Rating: 3
If sheep don't count, how do they get to sleep?

RE: Possibilities
By fictisiousname on 3/8/2010 2:45:02 PM , Rating: 5
they jump fences until they are tired.

RE: Possibilities
By ViroMan on 3/9/2010 4:43:07 AM , Rating: 2
that would be the first fence because, thats one hell of an electric shock.

RE: Possibilities
By whiteyd on 3/8/2010 4:45:39 PM , Rating: 2
Actually it's a Simpsons quote, but I do agree this could have some truly interesting possibilities

RE: Possibilities
By Jaybus on 3/8/2010 4:52:38 PM , Rating: 2
Of course carbon nanotubes have uses. But if most of the energy from burning the attached fuel is released as light and heat, then it isn't of much use in producing electricity is it? Since it is burning fuel, the efficiency is going to have to be well above 50%, else this is just another curious property of no practical use.

RE: Possibilities
By nilepez on 3/8/2010 8:47:09 PM , Rating: 2
"Education is the road to understanding. Assuming is the road to ignorance."

Assumptions are the basis of most logical proof, and scientists make basic assumptions....for example, that the rules governing logic are, in fact, valid.

RE: Possibilities
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/9/2010 7:27:02 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, an enlightened post. Assumptions are at the foundation of every science. Fundamentally, there must be a leap of faith for us to do science, even with basic theorums. Your assertion is best expressed in that old saw: "There is no empirical basis for empiricism." QED.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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