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March 4th, 2005
The dream of super-strong fibres made from carbon nanotubes is predicated on the notion of being able to grow these nanoscale carbon cylinders to any length. The idea of using such nanotubes as conductive wiring and semiconducting devices in nanoscopic electrical circuits, meanwhile, hinges on the ability to make nanotubes to order in either a metallic or a semiconducting form. Neither of these things is yet possible, but new results from a team of US researchers show that both may be feasible soon.
Nanotube pioneer Richard Smalley at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and his co-workers, have discovered a method for restarting the growth of open-ended carbon nanotubes in a way that preserves the atomic-scale structure of the original tubes. They also say that it provides 'the opportunity to grow nanotubes to unlimited lengths'.
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