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No tradeoff between strength and flexibility with carbon nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes have enticed researchers since their discovery in 1991, offering an impressive combination of high strength and low weight. Now a new study suggests that they also act like super-compressible springs, opening the door to foam-like materials for just about any application where strength and flexibility are needed, from disposable coffee cups to the exterior of the space shuttle.
The research, which is reported in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Science, shows that films of aligned multiwalled carbon nanotubes can act like a layer of mattress springs, flexing and rebounding in response to a force. But unlike a mattress, which can sag and lose its springiness, these nanotube foams maintain their resilience even after thousands of compression cycles.
Buckled carbon nanotubes under compression. Copyright © Anyuan Cao/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
In foams that exist today, strength and flexibility are opposing properties: as one goes up, the other must go down. With carbon nanotubes, no such tradeoff exists.
About the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nationTMs oldest technological university. The university offers bachelorTMs, masterTMs, and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of fields, with particular emphasis in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and the media arts and technology. The Institute is well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.
Nanotechnology at Rensselaer:
In September 2001, the National Science Foundation selected Rensselaer as one of the six original sites nationwide for a new Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC). As part of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, the program is housed within the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center and forms a partnership between Rensselaer, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. The mission of RensselaerTMs Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures is to integrate research, education, and technology dissemination, and to serve as a national resource for fundamental knowledge and applications in directed assembly of nanostructures. The five other original NSECs are located at Harvard University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Northwestern University, and Rice University.
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