Nanotech

A microscopic image of carbon nanotubes. / Photo by: CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons

 

Carbon nanotubes are stronger than steel and more conductive than copper, but engineers do not use them because of its steep cost. Fortunately, researchers at Vanderbilt University found a way on how to create them to become cheaper and more convenient.

Carbon Dioxide Absorption

The research team manipulated an event called Ostwald ripening to produce carbon nanotubes with small diameters. Ostwald ripening is a phenomenon in which smaller particles in a solution dissolve and then deposit into larger particles to reach a thermodynamically stable state. In carbon nanotubes, the phenomenon changes their diameter to a larger size, making them less useful and valuable.

To solve the problem, the researchers tuned the electrochemical parameters to reduce the larger nanoparticles to a smaller diameter. This enabled them to obtain carbon dioxide from the air and convert them into carbon nanotubes on the coatings of stainless steel surfaces.

The use of electrochemistry pulled apart the carbon dioxide in the air to separate the components, carbon and oxygen, and stitched them back together with nanometer precision to form usable carbon nanotubes.

“What we’ve learned is the science that opens the door to now build some of the most valuable materials in our world, such as diamonds and single-walled carbon nanotubes, from carbon dioxide that we capture from air through our process,” explained Cary Pint, a co-author of the study at Vanderbilt.

The application of the new technique can be employed to create products that clean the air while producing carbon nanotubes. These nanotubes are important components for many modern industrial products such as batteries and tires. Nanotubes produced this way would be inexpensive and more practical, compared to conventional strategies used today.