Making tubes useful often means joining them to other tubes and linking them together in networks. Easy enough to do with standard water pipes — but on the nanoscale, joining nanotubes is hard to do.
A multilayered crystal of vanadium selenide, seen in a field of view roughly as wide as a red blood cell: after enough copper atoms penetrate the uppermost layers of the crystal, a hexagonal network of nanofold tubes appears spontaneously, each tube 30 nanometers across and enclosing an empty space 4 nanometers high.
Hexagonal networks of nanotubes appear when enough copper atoms penetrate the surface layers of the vanadium selenide crystal to change the organization of the atoms in the layers (a phase change), causing them to expand in all directions.
Efforts to link nanotubes have usually begun with the most familiar kind, cylinders whose structure is equivalent to one or more rolled-up sheets of a layered crystal like graphite. Now researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratorys National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) and the Christian Albrechts University of Kiel, Germany, have found a completely new way to form complex networks of nanotubes. The researchers describe their results in the March 3, 2006 issue of Physical Review Letters, now available online.
The new method causes extensive hexagonal networks of tubes, intricately branched and connected, to form in less than a second on the surface of a layered crystal. The tubes themselves are prismatic folds, having the cross section of a pitched roof.
Paul Preuss | EurekAlert!
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