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February 6th, 2008
My Harvard colleague and coauthor George Whitesides, with whom I am working on the book No Small Matter, forthcoming in 2009 from Harvard University Press, asked that I make an interesting representation of nanotubes. I am a science photographer, not an illustrator, so my first course of action is usually to think photographically. The obvious, making a scanning electron micrograph of a nanotube, was not an option. Others have done that, probably much better than I would have. I decided to photographically simulate a nanotube structure.
Here's what I did. First I printed a black hexagonal pattern, representing a standard carbon lattice, on an 8x10 piece of transparent acetate (a). I then began to roll the acetate to make a tube. Immediately, something wonderful happened: I couldn't make a decision about how to longitudinally connect the edges of the paper. I was faced with a few choices. The literature informed me that there were indeed various possible configurations for carbon nanotubes, and that the ultimate configuration was significant in determining the electrical properties of the nanotube.
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