Scientists have long touted carbon nanotubes as a futuristic means of delivering drugs, fortifying brittle materials and conducting current in miniaturized circuits. But attempts to introduce actual nanotubes into these roles have often been stopped in their tracks by the slender filaments stubborn and unhelpful tendency to clump together in solution.
Now scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have found that a readily available chemical, a surfactant called sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate (NaDDBS), disperses nanotubes in water with remarkable efficiency. The discovery, described in a paper published this month in the journal Nanoletters, represents an important step towards wider applications of nanotubes.
"Scientists have suggested many possible applications for carbon nanotubes, but tube aggregation in solution has obstructed progress," said lead author Mohammad F. Islam, a postdoctoral researcher in Penns Department of Physics and Astronomy. "This new approach improves our ability to manipulate single tubes. Single nanotubes can now participate in controlled self-assembly, form fibers and composites, and serve as microfluidic sensors in water."
Steve Bradt | EurekAlert!
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