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February 6th, 2007
Since their discovery in the early 1990s, carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers—tiny structures made of pure carbon—have been used in a wide variety of applications. They have become indispensable in the nanosciences and nanotechnology. However, because their production on an industrial scale remains expensive, their commercial use in such areas as catalysis has remained unthinkable.
This could now be changing, thanks to researchers from the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin: Dang Sheng Su and his co-workers have used igneous rock from Mount Etna to produce carbon nanotubes and fibers directly by deposition from the gas phase. As they explain in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the naturally occurring iron oxide particles in lava make it an effective natural catalyst, possibly smoothing the way to a more efficient production method.
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