Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > A Stellar, Metal-Free Way to Make Carbon Nanotubes

Nanotubes can grow on graphite (top) in an unruly mass (middle) according to "space's recipe." The overlapping segments on a single nanotube (bottom) are a telltale sign of the cup-stacked structure. (Image on bottom reproduced from Astrophysical Journal Letters.) Image credit: Yuki Kimura, Tohoku University
Nanotubes can grow on graphite (top) in an unruly mass (middle) according to "space's recipe." The overlapping segments on a single nanotube (bottom) are a telltale sign of the cup-stacked structure. (Image on bottom reproduced from Astrophysical Journal Letters.) Image credit: Yuki Kimura, Tohoku University

Abstract:
Space apparently has its own recipe for making carbon nanotubes, one of the most intriguing contributions of nanotechnology here on Earth, and metals are conspicuously missing from the list of ingredients.

A Stellar, Metal-Free Way to Make Carbon Nanotubes

Washington, DC | Posted on February 23rd, 2010

The finding is the surprising by-product of lab experiments designed by Joseph Nuth at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and his colleagues to address the astronomical question of how carbon gets recycled in the regions of space that spawn stars and planets. The work also could help researchers understand puzzling observations about some supernovas.

In a recent paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters, Nuth's team describes the modest chemical reaction. Unlike current methods for producing carbon nanotubes—tiny yet strong structures with a range of applications in electronics and, ultimately, perhaps even medicine—the new approach does not need the aid of a metal catalyst. "Instead, nanotubes were produced when graphite dust particles were exposed to a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gases," explains Nuth.

"I am amazed at the implications of this paper, not only for astrophysics but also for materials science," says Dick Zare, the chair of the chemistry department at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. "Could Nature know a new chemistry for making carbon nanotubes that we have yet to discover?"

One indication of that possibility came in 2008, when the long, thin carbon structures known as graphite whiskers—essentially, bigger cousins of carbon nanotubes—were identified in three meteorites. That finding offered the tantalizing prospect that a haze of graphite whiskers in space could explain why some supernovas appear dimmer, and therefore farther away, than they should be, according to current models. Yet, "very little is known about graphite whisker formation, and so it is difficult to adequately interpret their discovery," says Marc Fries of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Fries and Andrew Steele at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, reported the meteorite findings.

Now, the experiments by Nuth's team suggest a possible route for forming such structures. This "is exactly the sort of fundamental approach needed for a meaningful understanding of what graphite whiskers are and what their presence means in the larger context of solar system formation and astronomical observations," Fries explains.

Nuth's approach is a variation of a well-established way to produce gasoline or other liquid fuels from coal. It's known as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, and researchers suspect that it could have produced at least some of the simple carbon-based compounds in the early solar system. Nuth proposes that the nanotubes yielded by such reactions could be the key to the recycling of the carbon that gets released when carbon-rich grains are destroyed by supernova explosions.

The structure of the carbon nanotubes produced in these experiments was determined by Yuki Kimura, a materials scientist at Tohoku University, Japan, who examined the samples under a powerful transmission electron microscope. He saw particles on which the original smooth graphite gradually morphed into an unstructured region and finally to an area rich in tangled hair-like masses. A closer look with an even more powerful microscope showed that these tendrils were in fact cup-stacked carbon nanotubes, which resemble a stack of Styrofoam cups with the bottoms cut out.

These observations surprised Kimura because carbon nanotubes are typically grown with platinum or another metal as a catalyst, yet Nuth's reaction had used no metals. Kimura checked for contamination but "did not find the presence of metallic particles accompanying the nanotube in the sample," he says.

If further testing indicates that the new method is suitable for materials-science applications, it could supplement, or even replace, the familiar way of making nanotubes, explains Kimura. That possibility "is most exciting and invites yet more study," says Zare.

The findings also might open a new realm of investigation in astronomy, because "we can take the whiskers produced by Joe and interrogate their properties," says Steele.

In particular, researchers can evaluate whether graphite whiskers absorb light, he notes. A positive result would lend credence to the proposition that the presence of these molecules in space affects the observations of some supernovas. The ability to test this hypothesis could start a reaction of its own.

Elizabeth Zubritsky
Goddard Space Flight Center

####

About NASA
NASA's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.

To do that, thousands of people have been working around the world -- and off of it -- for 50 years, trying to answer some basic questions. What's out there in space? How do we get there? What will we find? What can we learn there, or learn just by trying to get there, that will make life better here on Earth?

For more information, please click here

Copyright © NASA

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Leti Presents Advances in Propagation Modeling and Antenna Design for mmWave Spectrum: Paper Is One of 15 that Leti Presented at European Conference on Antennas and Propagation March 19-24 March 23rd, 2017

Rice U. refines filters for greener natural gas: New study defines best materials for carbon capture, methane selectivity March 23rd, 2017

Chip Technology

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Scientists discover new 'boat' form of promising semiconductor: GeSe Uncommon form attenuates semiconductor's band gap size March 23rd, 2017

Pulverizing e-waste is green, clean -- and cold: Rice, Indian Institute researchers use cryo-mill to turn circuit boards into separated powders March 21st, 2017

Electro-optical switch transmits data at record-low temperatures: Operating at temperatures near absolute zero, switch could enable significantly faster data processing with lower power consumption March 20th, 2017

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes

Intertronics introduce new nanoparticle deagglomeration technology March 15th, 2017

Boron atoms stretch out, gain new powers: Rice University simulations demonstrate 1-D material's stiffness, electrical versatility January 26th, 2017

New stem cell technique shows promise for bone repair January 25th, 2017

Captured on video: DNA nanotubes build a bridge between 2 molecular posts: Research may lead to new lines of direct communication with cells January 9th, 2017

Nanomedicine

Nanobiotix: The Independent Data Monitoring Committee Recommends the Continuation of the Ongoing Phase II/III Trial of NBTXR3 in Soft Tissue Sarcoma March 23rd, 2017

Nanoparticle paves the way for new triple negative breast cancer drug March 20th, 2017

Block copolymer micellization as a protection strategy for DNA origami March 17th, 2017

Nanocages for gold particles: what is happening inside? March 16th, 2017

Nanoelectronics

Scientists discover new 'boat' form of promising semiconductor: GeSe Uncommon form attenuates semiconductor's band gap size March 23rd, 2017

UC researchers use gold coating to control luminescence of nanowires: University of Cincinnati physicists manipulate nanowire semiconductors in pursuit of making electronics smaller, faster and cheaper March 17th, 2017

A SOI wafer is a suitable substrate for gallium nitride crystals: Improved characteristics in power electronics and radio applications can be achieved by using a SOI wafer for gallium nitride growth March 4th, 2017

Smart multi-layered magnetic material acts as an electric switch: New study reveals characteristic of islands of magnetic metals between vacuum gaps, displaying tunnelling electric current March 1st, 2017

Announcements

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Rice U. refines filters for greener natural gas: New study defines best materials for carbon capture, methane selectivity March 23rd, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Aerospace/Space

Space energy technology restored to make power stations more efficient: Scientists use graphene to reinvent abandoned heat energy converter technology March 7th, 2017

Applied Graphene Materials plc - Significant commercial progress in AGM’s three core sectors March 3rd, 2017

Triboelectric Nanogenerators Boost Mass Spectrometry Performance March 1st, 2017

EmTech Asia breaks new barriers with potential applications of space exploration with NASA and MIT February 22nd, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project