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August 19, 2007

The carbon nanotube extravaganza

Nestled along the east bank of the Hudson river in NY, a few miles north of Albany resides the absolute asshole of the universe - Troy NY. The locals are for the most part Hells Angels, meth heads, drug dealers, sex offenders and some of the most corrupt and inept politicians the world has ever seen. There would be very little to recommend Troy now that the past glory of the Burden Iron works and fabric mills are things of the past. Even Troy's premier symbolic product - Uncle Sam is coming under harsh fire these days. Were it not for presence of RPI, Troy might well be best renovated with a fleet of D9 Caterpillars and shoved into the Hudson. However, geeks the world over flock to Troy because of RPI...


Enough bitching about Troy - on to the nanotubes. RPI is one of the big players in nanotube research these days.

What the hell is a carbon nanotube? Well, its a pure carbon tube and its damned small...like an molecule thick small on the wall of the tube. Pretty small. For quite a while they weren't much more than a lab curiosity. Hey cool - we can make teeny tiny tubes out of carbon. They've gone WAY beyond the curiosity stage now though. We're starting to find out these things have some really interesting properties.

Like making batteries out of paper

...Along with its ability to function in temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and down to 100 below zero, the device is completely integrated and can be printed like paper. The device is also unique in that it can function as both a high-energy battery and a high-power supercapacitor, which are generally separate components in most electrical systems. Another key feature is the capability to use human blood or sweat to help power the battery...

Or shock absorbing materials that have the resilience of muscle tissue
...Pushparaj and his team created a free-standing, macroscopic, two-millimeter square block of carbon nanotubes, made up of millions of individual, vertically aligned, multiwalled nanotubes. The researchers then compressed the block between two steels plates in a vice-like machine.

The team repeated this process more than 500,000 times, recording precisely how much force was required to compress the nanotube block down to about 25 percent of its original height.

Even after 500,000 compressions, the nanotube block retained its original shape and mechanical properties. Similarly, the nanotube block also retained its original electrical conductance.

In the initial stages of the experiment, the force needed to compress the nanotube block decreased slightly, but soon stabilized to a constant value, said Jonghwan Suhr, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada in Reno, who received his doctorate from Rensselaer in 2005, and with Pushparaj contributed equally to this report.

As the researchers continued to compress the block, the individual nanotube arrays collectively and gradually adjusted to getting squeezed, showing very little fatigue. This “shape memory,” or viscoelastic-like behavior (although the individual nanotubes are not themselves viscoelastic), is often observed in soft-tissue materials...


And possibly replace copper as an electrical conductor in microelectronics [which will help with heat generated within chips]
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new method of compacting carbon nanotubes into dense bundles. These tightly packed bundles are efficient conductors and could one day replace copper as the primary interconnects used on computer chips and even hasten the transition to next-generation 3-D stacked chips...

[UPDATE] I've been accused of "entirely too generous with Troy" and I have some confessions to make in this regard. OK, here it is -- I was born in Troy, and my brother is an alum of RPI, and I took some cross registration classes there one year too. I grew up about 10 miles west of the city and remember it fondly as a knee high tyke, but that was before it morphed into the cesspool it is today. So yea, I'm in the tank for Troy. I'm hoping the fact that I own a toxic waste site inside city limits will compensate for all this slack I cut the place.

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posted by Purp at 01:28 AM

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