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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: toner
By ekv on 3/9/2010 4:12:31 AM , Rating: 2
Dude is bad-a** 8)

I had wondered about the number of posts too. Either a fair amount of time available, or just damn smart [to think logically and communicate at that level, that fast].

As far as working for DailyTech ... you imply they are smart enough to recognize such talent. It'd just make too much sense to hire him, even as a consultant, no?

I know I'm spending more time here lately....

RE: toner
By AmbroseAthan on 3/9/2010 9:50:32 AM , Rating: 2
They actually did ask him a few days ago as a reply to one of his comments. J. Mick asked if he would be interested in writing a blog for the site once in a while.

Porkpie thought he might still be a bit too hot-headed for such.

RE: toner
By Gzus666 on 3/9/2010 7:38:56 PM , Rating: 2
I had wondered about the number of posts too. Either a fair amount of time available, or just damn smart [to think logically and communicate at that level, that fast].

Using basic logic and communicating it quickly is not that complicated for someone who puts in some effort to learn the basics of logic. Once the basics of logic are understood, arguments can easily be made from there and done well. An example is my brother spent quite a bit of time in debate classes. As such, he can argue with just about anyone extremely effectively and following the proper rules of logic. Couple this basic understanding with an above average intellect and access to the Internet and you get that. There are plenty of people who are able to do similar things while online. They are not gods or anything of that nature, merely intelligent people with access to instant information. Chances are his job sucks (I was in that situation years ago) and therefore the free time during the day skyrockets because an idle mind tends to wander (especially for the more intelligent).

This of course is not to take away from his abilities, he is quite well versed in logic, my post was merely a ribbing.

RE: toner
By ekv on 3/10/2010 2:41:30 AM , Rating: 2
my post was merely a ribbing
Woops. Didn't catch that. Thanks.

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