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July 20th, 2008
CIRCUS acts and movie special effects may never be the same again, if an idea for an invisible cable made of carbon nanotubes works out.
Being narrower than the wavelength of light, nanotubes are normally invisible - as long as they are separated by more than one wavelength. Now Nicola Pugno of the Polytechnic of Turin in Italy has calculated how many nanotubes would be needed to support a person, taking into account small defects that develop in the tubes during manufacture. When held 5 micrometres apart, to keep them invisible, they would form a cable only 1 centimetre in diameter weighing a mere 10 milligrams per kilometre (Microsystem Technologies, DOI: 10.1007/s00542-008-0653-9). A plate with more closely spaced holes could slide along the cable, bringing the nanotubes closer, and so into view.
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