Wednesday, July 17, 2002

"This is the strongest material that will ever be made."

bold words reported today in the new york times laud the carbon nanotube. "The prospect of a strand that is long, strong and thin conjures dreams of epic engineering like spinning a 22,300-mile-long cable out of nanotubes to tether a satellite in orbit around the earth, and then building an elevator that goes from the ground floor literally into outer space. The present reality is more modest."

of particular interest to me: "At the conference, Dr. Philippe Poulin, a scientist at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, described how nanotubes could be dispersed into a liquid, mixed with polymers and spun into a fiber thinner than a human hair. At present, the nanotube fiber is not as strong as some other artificial fibers like kevlar. But Dr. Poulin said he expected scientists to find ways to strengthen the bonds between individual nanotubes, perhaps by heating the fibers or dipping them in a chemical. The fibers could also find use in tiny machines. Adding electrical charge expands the bonds between carbon atoms, lengthening the fiber by a small fraction. If the nanotube fiber is glued to a strip of another material that does not shrink or expand, the voltage causes the fiber to bend like an archer's bow. "You're making it a muscle," Dr. Poulin said."

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