Move over, silicon. In a breakthrough in the quest for the next generation of computers and materials, researchers at
"We are solving a fundamental problem of the carbon nanotube," said Chongwu Zhou (http://ee.usc.edu/faculty_staff/faculty_directory/zhou.htm), professor in the
If this is an age built on silicon, then the next one may be built on carbon nanotubes, which have shown promise in everything from optics to energy storage to touch screens. Not only are nanotubes transparent, but this research discovery on how to control the atomic structure of nanotubes will pave the way for computers that are smaller, faster and more energy efficient than those reliant on silicon transistors.
"We are now working to scale up the process," Zhou said. "Our method can revolutionize the field and significantly push forward the real applications of nanotubes in many fields."
Until now, scientists were unable to "grow" carbon nanotubes with specific attributes -- say metallic rather than semiconducting -- instead getting mixed, random batches and then sorting them. The sorting process also shortened the nanotubes significantly, making the material less practical for many applications.
For more than three years, the
A paper last year by the same team in
"We identify the mechanisms required for mass amplification of nanotubes," said co-lead author
"To understand nanotube growth behaviors allows us to produce larger amounts of nanotubes and better control that growth," she continued.
Each defined type of carbon nanotube has a frequency at which it expands and contracts. The researchers showed that the newly grown nanotubes had the same atomic structure by matching the Raman frequency.
"This is a very exciting field, and this was the most difficult problem," said co-lead author
In addition, the study found nanotubes with different structures also behave very differently during their growth, with some nanotube structures growing faster and others growing longer under certain conditions.
"Previously it was very difficult to control the chirality, or atomic structure, of nanotubes, particularly when using metal nanoparticles,"
Additional authors of the study are
The research was funded by the
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