Microscopic carbon nanotubes 100,000 times thinner than a human hair may have the potential to transport electricity faster and over greater distances with minimal loss of energy, according to new research that published on October 2 in Science magazine. The research was led by Honda Research Institute USA, Inc., in conjunction with researchers at Purdue University and the University of Louisville.
The findings open new possibilities for miniaturization and energy efficiency, including much more powerful and compact computers, electrodes for supercapacitors, electrical cables, batteries, solar cells, fuel cells, artificial muscles, composite material for automobiles and planes, energy storage materials and electronics for hybrid vehicles.
Microscopic carbon nanotubes are grown on the surface of metal nanoparticles, taking the cylindrical form of rolled honeycomb sheets with carbon atoms in their tips. When these tiny carbon nanotubes exhibit metallic conductivity they possess extraordinary strength compared to steel, higher electrical properties than copper, are as efficient in conducting heat as a diamond and are as light as cotton.
Past research efforts to control the structural formation of carbon nanotubes with metallic conductivity through conventional methodology resulted in a success rate of approximately 25%-50%. Honda, which has worked in the field of carbon nanotube synthesis for almost a decade, has achieved a success rate of 91% metallic conductivity for grown carbon nanotubes.
"This is the first report that shows we can control fairly systematically whether carbon nanotubes achieve a metallic state. Further research is in progress with the ultimate goal to take complete control over grown nanotube configurations to support their real world application," said Dr. Avetik Harutyunyan, principal scientist from Honda Research Institute USA, and the leader of the project.
Honda Research Institute USA, Inc. (HRI-US) was founded along with HRI-EU (Europe) and HRI-JP (Japan). U.S. offices are located in California, Ohio and Massachusetts and include a computer science research division focused on human intelligence technologies and a materials science research division focused on functional nano-materials.