Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Inexpensive plastic used in CDs could improve aircraft, computer electronics

18.05.2009
Physics professor at UH uses Air Force grants to create highly conductive nanocomposites

If one University of Houston professor has his way, the inexpensive plastic now used to manufacture CDs and DVDs will one day soon be put to use in improving the integrity of electronics in aircraft, computers and iPhones.

Thanks to a pair of grants from the U.S. Air Force, Shay Curran, associate professor of physics at UH, and his research team have demonstrated ultra-high electrical conductive properties in plastics, called polycarbonates, by mixing them with just the right amount and type of carbon nanotubes.

The findings are chronicled in a paper titled "Electrical Transport Measurements of Highly Conductive Carbon Nanotube/Poly(bisphenol A carbonate) Composite," appearing in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Physics, the archival publication of the American Institute of Physics for significant new results in the field.

Curran, who initially began this form of research a decade ago at Trinity College Dublin, started to look at high-conductive plastics in a slightly different manner. Curran's team has come up with a strategy to achieve higher conductivities using carbon nanotubes in plastic hosts than what has been currently achieved. By combining nanotubes with polycarbonates, Curran's group was able to reach a milestone of creating nanocomposites with ultra-high conductive properties.

"While its mechanical and optical properties are very good, polycarbonate is a non-conductive plastic. That means its ability to carry an electrical charge is as good as a tree, which is pretty awful," Curran said. "Imagine that this remarkable plastic can now not only have good optical and mechanical properties, but also good electrical characteristics. By being able to tailor the amount of nanotubes we can add to the composite, we also can change it from the conductivity of silicon to a few orders below that achieved by metals."

Making this very inexpensive plastic highly conductive could benefit electronics in everything from military aircraft to personal computers. Computer failure, for instance, results from the build up of thermal and electrical charges, so developing these polymer nanotube composites into an antistatic coating or to provide a shield against electromagnetic interference would increase the lifespan of computing devices, ranging from PCs to PDAs.

The next step of this research is to develop ink formulations to paint these polycarbonate nanocomposites onto various electrical components. Normally, metal plates are used to dissipate electrical charge, so it's not surprising that the availability of a paintable ink would be particularly appealing to the Air Force for its lightweight properties, resulting in lighter aircraft that guzzle less gas.

Another key component of this latest research is that pristine nanotubes disbursed in this polycarbonate were found to possess an even higher conductivity than acid-treated carbon nanotubes. Traditionally, the tubes are sonicated, or treated with acid, to clean them and remove soot to get a higher conductivity. This, however, damages the tubes and exposes them to defects. Instead, Curran and his group were able to centrifuge, or swirl, them. This takes a little longer, but increases the potential to have higher conductivities. He attributes this to the incredibly clean samples of carbon nanotubes obtained from fellow collaborator David Carroll in the physics department at Wake Forest University.

In addition to Curran and Carroll, the team behind these remarkable findings includes Donald Birx, professor of electrical engineering and vice president for research at UH, two of Curran's former post-doctoral students, Jamal Talla and Donghui Zhang, and a current Curran student, Sampath Dias.

Coincidentally, Curran's former thesis supervisor Werner Blau and his group in the department of physics at Trinity College Dublin have come out with similar findings recently in the journal ACS Nano. Both groups really have been pushing hard in the area of polymer nanotube composites during the course of the last decade. Curran said his group at UH achieved the highest conductivity levels so far, but also is encouraged by Blau's success and said repeating these types of outcomes will open doors for even higher values.

"While these are phenomenal results, finding these unusual highly conductive properties has not even begun to scratch the surface," Curran said. "There is hard science behind it, so developing it further will require significant investment. And we are very thankful to the Air Force for giving us this auspicious start."

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 36,000 students.

About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with nearly 400 faculty members and approximately 4,000 students, offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, geosciences, mathematics and physics have internationally recognized collaborative research programs in association with UH interdisciplinary research centers, Texas Medical Center institutions and national laboratories.

For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.

To receive UH science news via e-mail, visit http://www.uh.edu/news-events/mailing-lists/sciencelistserv.php.

For additional news alerts about UH, follow us on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6qw9ht and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/UH_News.

Lisa Merkl | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uh.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Pulses of electrons manipulate nanomagnets and store information
21.07.2017 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion
21.07.2017 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>