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April 16th, 2007

How to tell them apart?

Electrophoresis has come to the aid of nanotechnology, by forming the basis of a novel method for separating two different types of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). Developed by a team of chemical engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), led by Michael Strano, this method could help usher in the next generation of electronic devices.

SWNTs are tiny tubes of carbon with walls only one-atom thick, as though a single sheet of graphite has been rolled into a tube. Their tiny size (0.5-3nm in diameter) and comparatively large surface area (with all their atoms on the outside of the tube) gives them a number of useful properties. These include a tensile strength greater than steel, with SWNTs already being added to car chasses and tennis rackets to make them stronger.


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