Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Clemson scientists put a (nano) spring in their step

Electronic devices get smaller and more complex every year. It turns out that fragility is the price for miniaturization, especially when it comes to small devices, such as cell phones, hitting the floor. Wouldn’t it be great if they bounced instead of cracked when dropped?

A team of Clemson University researchers, led by Apparao Rao, professor of physics, has invented a way to make beds of tiny, shock-absorbing carbon springs which possibly could be used to protect delicate objects from damaging impacts. With collaborators at the University of California at San Diego, the team has shown that layers of these tiny springs called coiled carbon nanotubes, each a thousand times smaller than a human hair, can act as extremely resilient shock absorbers.

Similar coiled carbon nanotubes have been made before, yet Clemson researchers say this method is unique since beds of coiled carbon nanotubes can be grown in a single step using a proprietary hydrocarbon-catalyst mixture.

The group also envisions coiled nanotubes in soldiers’ body armor, car bumpers and bushings and even as cushioning elements in shoe soles.

“The problem we have faced in the past is producing enough of these coiled carbon nanotubes at a reasonable cost to make a difference,” said Rao. “Because our current method produces coiled nanotubes quickly in high yield, it can be readily scaled up to industrial levels. After formation, the coiled nanotubes can be peeled off in one piece and placed on other surfaces to form instant cushioning coatings.”

In earlier studies, Rao and his team, along with UCSD collaborators, tested more conventional straight carbon nanotubes against coil-shaped nanotubes. When a stainless steel ball was dropped onto a single nanotube layer, the coiled nanotubes completely recovered from the impact, while the straight ones did not.

“It’s like an egg toss,” said Rao. “If you move your hand backward as you catch the egg and increase the time of contact over which the impact occurs, the impact will be less forceful and the egg will not break. It is the same phenomenon experienced in catching a baseball.”

In previous work, Rao’s group developed a process that coaxes a traditionally straight carbon nanotube to split into a “Y” shape. When powered by electrical voltages, the Y-branched nanotubes behave like tiny switches or transistors that process information.

“Our studies with carbon nanotubes have been ongoing for quite some time,” said Rao. “Each step along the way has led to the next breakthrough, and each time we’ve learned more about how they grow and what their applications could be. We believe that carbon nanotubes have tremendous potential for the lives of each one of us.”


Advanced Materials 2008, 20, 179-182
Journal of Applied Physics 100, 064309 (2006)
Nature Materials
Journal of Applied Physics 101, 094307 (2007)

Apparao Rao | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht 'Super yeast' has the power to improve economics of biofuels
18.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

nachricht Engineers reveal fabrication process for revolutionary transparent sensors
14.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>