Alan Windle and his team of researchers at the University of Cambridge have set a new record for length of produced carbon nanotube fibers.
A thread of carbon nanotubes more than 100 metres long has been pulled from a fiery furnace. The previous record holder was a mere 30 centimetres long.
"This is ground-breaking research - but it's early days" says Harry Swan, whose company Thomas Swan of Consett, UK, is helping to finance the development of the new manufacturing technique.
So far, the fibres aren't outstandingly strong — they're no better than typical textile fibres. But Windle thinks that there's still plenty of scope for improving the process to make stronger fibres, for example by finding ways to make the nanotubes line up better. In Kevlar it's the good alignment of molecules that generates the high strength.
If Windle's group can improve the strength of the fibers produced by this approach then nanotube fibers could finally move into use in industrial applications. The potential exists to lower the cost of cars, aircraft, trains, suspension bridges, an a large assortment of other vehicles and stationary structures. Work on making nanotube strands line up better to increase their strength is also showing signs of making progress. If carbon nanotube fibers ever achieve sufficient strength (and lots of scientists believe they can) then construction of a space elevator becomes possible. That would lower the cost of getting into space by 2 or 3 orders of magnitude.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2004 March 12 03:34 PM Nanotech Advances|