Materials fortified with carbon nanotubes are strongest when the embedded filaments run parallel to each other, but electronic and thermal conductivity are best when the nanotubes are oriented randomly. That the finding from a team of engineers at the University of Pennsylvania who have developed a production technique that permits a finer and more precise dispersion of nanotubes within a material.
The results, which could give scientists the tools to customize nano-tube-laced materials to meet their particular needs, are reported online this week and in the Dec. 15 print edition of the Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics. Less than one-ten-thousandth the width of a human hair, carbon nanotubes possess unparalleled strength, superior heat-conducting properties and a unique ability to adopt the electrical properties of either semiconductors or metals, but so far they have failed to back up this theoretical potential with real-world applications.
"A major hurdle that has prevented us from mixing nanotubes into materials to take advantage of these remarkable properties is their stubborn tendency to bundle together," said Karen I. Winey, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Penn. "Uniform dispersion of nanotubes in materials is absolutely critical to harnessing their strength, electrical conductivity and thermal stability."
Greg Lester | University of Pennsylvania
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Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
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In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
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