NASA Nanotechnology Comes to Market

Nov 14, 2006
NASA Nanotechnology Comes to Market
This is an electron microscope image of "NOMEC 1556," a single-walled carbon nanotube bundle (magnification is 400k). Credit: University of Idaho Electron Microscopy Center

Finding affordable ways to make technology available to everyone is a common challenge. Now, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. has done that with the process that creates "nanotubes."

A nanotube is a tiny, hollow, long, thin and strong tube with an outside diameter of a nanometer that is formed from atoms such as carbon.

Nanotubes are really important in technology, because when they are made a certain way, a nanotube can conduct (allow movement of) electricity as well as copper does. When they are made a slightly different way, nanotubes are electrical semiconductors, which mean they can be switched between insulating from electricity to conducting electricity. Semiconductors make it possible to miniaturize electronic components. Nanotubes can be either semiconductors or conductors depending on how they are made.

Nanotubes are also stronger than steel, so long filaments can be used to create super-tough lightweight materials. To understand how strong a nanotube is, think of a hair holding up a barbell.

Although the carbon nanotubes were discovered 15 years ago, their use has been limited due to the complex, dangerous, and expensive methods for their production.

However, Goddard researchers Drs. Jeannette Benavides and Henning Leidecker developed a simpler, safer, and much less costly process to make these carbon nanotubes. The key was that they figured out how to produce bundles of these nanotubes without using metal, which reduced the costs tremendously and made a better quality product.

Earlier this year, NASA Goddard licensed its patented technique for manufacturing these high-quality "single-walled carbon nanotubes" to Idaho Space Materials (ISM) in Boise, Idaho. Now the carbon nanotubes based on this creation process are being used by researchers and companies that are working on things that will impact almost every facet of life, such as new materials with ceramics and polymers. Polymers are tiny molecules strung in long repeating chains, like DNA in our bodies. Polymers are also in proteins and starches in foods we eat, or in plastics, for example.

"ISM believes that carbon nanotubes will be a building block for a better world, making people's lives better through a wide range of uses, including medical advances, fuel cells, video displays, solar cells, and a host of other applications," explained ISM vice president Roger Smith.

"I'm very excited to see that this agreement is now making carbon nanotubes more readily available, particularly for academic and other research programs," said Dr. Benavides, who demonstrated the technology to ISM and provided expertise during process to make the technology come to market. "The fact that they now have access to lower cost carbon nanotubes [means great things] for the future of nanotechnology."

Source: Goddard Space Flight Center

Explore further: Tiny conjugated polyelectrolyte-nanoparticle probes produced by ultrasonication prove superior to commercial products

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists Make 'Perfect' Nanowires

Jan 23, 2008

Scientists have created silicon nanowires that are perfect—at least atomically. Down at the single-atom level, the identical wires have no bumps, bends, or other imperfections. They are perfectly crystalline, even more ...

Recommended for you

Buckybomb shows potential power of nanoscale explosives

26 minutes ago

(Phys.org)—Scientists have simulated the explosion of a modified buckminsterfullerene molecule (C60), better known as a buckyball, and shown that the reaction produces a tremendous increase in temperatur ...

Glass coating improves battery performance

Mar 02, 2015

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.