UCLA chemists report the discovery of a remarkable new nanoscale phenomenon: An ordinary camera flash causes the instantaneous welding together of nanofibers made of polyaniline, a unique synthetic polymer that can be made in either a conducting or an insulating form. The discovery, which the chemists call "flash welding," is published in the November issue of the journal Nature Materials.
Numerous applications potentially could result from this research in such areas as chemical sensors, separation membranes and nano devices. "We used an ordinary 35-millimeter camera, but you could also use a laser, or any other high-intensity light source," said Richard B. Kaner, UCLA professor of inorganic chemistry and materials science and engineering, and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.
"I was very surprised," Kaner said. "My graduate student, Jiaxing Huang, decided to take some pictures of his polyaniline nanofibers one evening when he heard a distinct popping sound and smelled burning plastic. Jiaxing recalled a paper that we had discussed during a group meeting reporting that carbon nanotubes burned up in response to a camera flash. By adjusting the distance of the camera flash to his material, he was able to produce smooth films with no burning, making this new discovery potentially useful."
Stuart Wolpert | EurekAlert!
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