Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UC Riverside scientists discovering new uses for tiny carbon nanotubes

15.05.2013
Adding ionic liquid to nanotube films could build smaller gadgets, and create more cost effective 'Smart Windows' that darken in bright sun

The atom-sized world of carbon nanotubes holds great promise for a future demanding smaller and faster electronic components. Nanotubes are stronger than steel and smaller than any element of silicon-based electronics—the ubiquitous component of today's electrical devices—and have better conductivity, which means they can potentially process information faster while using less energy.

The challenge has been figuring out how to incorporate all those great properties into useful electronic devices. A new discovery by four scientists at the University of California, Riverside has brought us closer to the goal. They discovered that by adding ionic liquid—a kind of liquid salt—they can modify the optical transparency of single-walled carbon nanotube films in a controlled pattern.

"It was a discovery, not something we were looking for," said Robert Haddon, director of UC Riverside's Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Scientists Feihu Wang, Mikhail Itkis and Elena Bekyarova were looking at ways to improve the electrical behavior of carbon nanotubes, and as part of their research they also looked at whether they could modulate the transparency of the films. An article about their findings was published online in April in Nature Photonics.

The scientists spent some time trying to affect the optical properties of carbon nanotube films with an electric field, with little success, said Itkis, a research scientist at the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. "But when we applied a thin layer of an ionic liquid on top of the nanotube film we noticed that the change of transparency is amplified 100 times and that the change in transparency occurs in the vicinity of one of the electrodes, so we started studying what causes these drastic changes and how to create transparency in controlled patterns."

An ionic liquid contains negative and positive ions which can interact with the nanotubes, dramatically influencing their ability to store an electrical charge. That increases or decreases their transparency, similar to the way that glasses darken in sunlight. By learning how to manipulate the transparency, scientists may be able to start incorporating nanotube films into products that now rely on slower or heavier components, such as metal oxide.

For instance, using nanotube films meshed with a film of ionic liquid, scientists could create more cost effective Smart Windows, that darken when it's hot outside and become lighter when it's cold.

"Smart Windows are a new industry that has been shown to save 50 percent of your energy costs," said Itkis. "On a very hot day you can shade your window just by turning a switch, so you don't have to use as much air conditioning. And on a winter day, you can make a window more transparent to let in more light."

The scientists still need to study the economic viability of using nanotube film, but Bekyarova said one possible advantage would be that carbon nanotubes are ultra thin—about 1,000 times smaller than a single strand of hair—so you would need very little to cover a large area, such as the windows of a large building.

Itkis said nanotube films also hold great promise in building lighter and more compact analytical instruments such as spectrometers, which are used to analyze the properties of light.

In this application, a nanotube film with an array of electrodes can be used as an electrically configurable diffraction grating for an infrared spectrometer, allowing the wavelength of light to be scanned without moving parts.

Furthermore, by using addressable electrodes, the spatial pattern of the induced transparency in the nanotube film can be modified in a controlled way and used as an electrically configurable optical media for storage and transfer of information via patterns of light.

Carbon nanotubes have great potential, but there is still plenty of work to be done to make them useful in electronics and optoelectronics, Haddon said.

"The challenge is to harness their outstanding properties," he said. "They won't be available at Home Depot next week, but there is continuing progress in the field."

The University of California, Riverside (http://www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

By Jeanette Marantos

Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucr.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Melting solid below the freezing point
23.01.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

nachricht An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk
20.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>