Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors
Heifer International



Home > Press > Rice researchers unzip the future: Simple process makes thin, conductive nanoribbons

Abstract:
Scientists at Rice University have found a simple way to create basic elements for aircraft, flat-screen TVs, electronics and other products that incorporate sheets of tough, electrically conductive material.

Rice researchers unzip the future: Simple process makes thin, conductive nanoribbons

Houston, TX | Posted on April 16th, 2009

And the process begins with a zipper.

Research by the Rice University lab of Professor James Tour, featured on the cover of the April 16 issue of the journal Nature, has uncovered a room-temperature chemical process that splits, or unzips, carbon nanotubes to make flat nanoribbons. The technique makes it possible to produce the ultrathin ribbons in bulk quantities.

These ribbons are straight-edged sheets of graphene, the single-layer form of common graphite found in pencils. You'd have to place thousands of them side by side to equal the width of a human hair, but tests show graphene is 200 times stronger than steel.

"If you want to make conductive film, this is what you want," said Tour, Rice's Chao Professor of Chemistry and also a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and computer science. "As soon as we started talking about this process, we began getting calls from manufacturers that recognized the potential."

The process involves sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate, which have been in common use since the 1890s. This chemical one-two punch attacks single and multiwalled carbon nanotubes, reacting with the carbon framework and unzipping them in a straight line.

The unzipping action can start on the end or in the middle, but the result is the same - the tubes turn into flat, straight-edged, water-soluble ribbons of graphene. When produced in bulk, these microscopic sheets can be "painted" onto a surface or combined with a polymer to let it conduct electricity.

Nanotubes have been used for that purpose already. "But when you stack two cylinders, the area that is touching is very small," Tour said. "If you stack these ribbons into sheets, you have very large areas of overlap. As an additive for materials, it's going to be very large, especially for conductive materials."

He credited Rice postdoctoral research associate Dmitry Kosynkin with the discovery. Kosynkin is lead author of the Nature paper, with contributions from graduate students Amanda Higginbotham, Jay Lomeda and B. Katherine Price, postdoctoral researcher Alexander Sinitskii, visiting scientist Ayrat Dimiev and Tour.

Kosynkin made the find while studying oxidation processes involving nanotubes. "Dmitry came to me and said he had nanoribbons," recalled Tour. "It took a while to convince me, but as soon as I saw them I realized this was huge."

Nearly all of the nanotubes subjected to unzipping turn into graphene ribbons, Tour said, and the basic process is the same for single or multiwalled tubes. Single-walled carbon nanotubes convert to sheets at room temperature and are good for small electronic devices because the width of the unzipped sheet is highly controllable. But the multiwalled nanotubes are much cheaper starting materials, and the resulting nanoribbons would be useful in a host of applications.

That's why Tour is banking on bulk, made possible by processing multiwalled tubes, which unzip in one hour at 130 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit. (Until now, making such material in more than microscopic quantities has involved a chemical vapor deposition process at more than 1,500 F.) "Multiwalled carbon nanotubes are concentric tubes, like Russian nesting dolls," he said. "We cut through 20 walls, one at a time, during the reaction process."

At first, the process of isolating nanoribbons "involved a lot of excruciating washing," he said. "But we've found a much easier way, which we needed to do to get industry to start taking it from here.

"If a company wants to produce these, they could probably start selling small quantities within six months. To scale it up and sell ton quantities, it might take a couple of years. That's just a matter of having the right reactors. But the chemistry is all there. It's very simple."

Tour is excited by the possibility that conductive nanoribbons could replace indium tin oxide (ITO), a material commonly used in flat-panel displays, touch panels, electronic ink and solar cells. "ITO is very expensive, so lots of people are looking for substitutes that will give them transparency with conductivity," he said.

"People have made thin films of nanotubes that fit the bill, but I think this will enable even thinner films, with the equivalent conductivity or better."

He envisioned nanoribbon-coated paper that could become a flexible electronic display, and he's already experimenting with nanoribbon-infused ink for ink-jet printers. "We're printing transistors and radio-frequency identification tags, printing electronics with these inks," he said.

"This is going to be the new material for many applications."

Tour said discussions are already underway with several companies looking into large-scale production of nanoribbons and with others interested in specific applications for nanoribbons in their core product technologies. Formal industrial partnering has already begun through Rice's Office of Technology Transfer.

The work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration and Wright Patterson Air Force Laboratory through the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

The paper can be found at www.nature.com. 


A podcast with Tour will be posted online at www.nature.com/nature/podcast.

####

About Rice University
Who Knew?
Located in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked one of America's best teaching and research universities. Known for its "unconventional wisdom," Rice is distinguished by its: size -- 3,001 undergraduates and 2,144 graduate students; selectivity --12 applicants for each place in the freshman class; resources -- an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of 5-to-1; sixth largest endowment per student among American private research universities; residential college system, which builds communities that are both close-knit and diverse; and collaborative culture, which crosses disciplines, integrates teaching and research, and intermingles undergraduate and graduate work.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
David Ruth
Associate Director for National Media Relations
Rice University
Direct: 713-348-6327
Cell: 612-702-9473

Copyright © Rice University

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

Virginia Tech physicists propose path to faster, more flexible robots: Virginia Tech physicists revealed a microscopic phenomenon that could greatly improve the performance of soft devices, such as agile flexible robots or microscopic capsules for drug delivery May 17th, 2024

Gene therapy relieves back pain, repairs damaged disc in mice: Study suggests nanocarriers loaded with DNA could replace opioids May 17th, 2024

Shedding light on perovskite hydrides using a new deposition technique: Researchers develop a methodology to grow single-crystal perovskite hydrides, enabling accurate hydride conductivity measurements May 17th, 2024

Oscillating paramagnetic Meissner effect and Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless transition in cuprate superconductor May 17th, 2024

Thin films

Utilizing palladium for addressing contact issues of buried oxide thin film transistors April 5th, 2024

Understanding the mechanism of non-uniform formation of diamond film on tools: Paving the way to a dry process with less environmental impact March 24th, 2023

New study introduces the best graphite films: The work by Distinguished Professor Feng Ding at UNIST has been published in the October 2022 issue of Nature Nanotechnology November 4th, 2022

Thin-film, high-frequency antenna array offers new flexibility for wireless communications November 5th, 2021

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes/Nanorods/Nanostrings

Catalytic combo converts CO2 to solid carbon nanofibers: Tandem electrocatalytic-thermocatalytic conversion could help offset emissions of potent greenhouse gas by locking carbon away in a useful material January 12th, 2024

TU Delft researchers discover new ultra strong material for microchip sensors: A material that doesn't just rival the strength of diamonds and graphene, but boasts a yield strength 10 times greater than Kevlar, renowned for its use in bulletproof vests November 3rd, 2023

Tests find no free-standing nanotubes released from tire tread wear September 8th, 2023

Detection of bacteria and viruses with fluorescent nanotubes July 21st, 2023

Discoveries

Virginia Tech physicists propose path to faster, more flexible robots: Virginia Tech physicists revealed a microscopic phenomenon that could greatly improve the performance of soft devices, such as agile flexible robots or microscopic capsules for drug delivery May 17th, 2024

Diamond glitter: A play of colors with artificial DNA crystals May 17th, 2024

Finding quantum order in chaos May 17th, 2024

Advances in priming B cell immunity against HIV pave the way to future HIV vaccines, shows quartet of new studies May 17th, 2024

Materials/Metamaterials/Magnetoresistance

How surface roughness influences the adhesion of soft materials: Research team discovers universal mechanism that leads to adhesion hysteresis in soft materials March 8th, 2024

Nanoscale CL thermometry with lanthanide-doped heavy-metal oxide in TEM March 8th, 2024

Focused ion beam technology: A single tool for a wide range of applications January 12th, 2024

Catalytic combo converts CO2 to solid carbon nanofibers: Tandem electrocatalytic-thermocatalytic conversion could help offset emissions of potent greenhouse gas by locking carbon away in a useful material January 12th, 2024

Announcements

Virginia Tech physicists propose path to faster, more flexible robots: Virginia Tech physicists revealed a microscopic phenomenon that could greatly improve the performance of soft devices, such as agile flexible robots or microscopic capsules for drug delivery May 17th, 2024

Diamond glitter: A play of colors with artificial DNA crystals May 17th, 2024

Finding quantum order in chaos May 17th, 2024

Oscillating paramagnetic Meissner effect and Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless transition in cuprate superconductor May 17th, 2024

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




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project