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November 18th, 2005
The accidental discovery that carbon nanotubes can be set alight with nothing more than a bright light could lead to a more efficient way of igniting car and rocket fuel.
Despite the mechanism's mystery, researchers are already beginning to exploit the effect. Bruce Chehroudi and Stephen Danczyk of the US Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards air force base in California have found that nanotubes placed one millimetre away from a droplet of methanol or a liquid rocket fuel called RP-1 can ignite the droplet when flashed with light. They think the burning nanotubes ignite the vapour around the droplet, which then ignites the fuel.
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