Bulk carbon nanotubes created by using a surprising household solvent

Mass production of carbon nanotubes had proved to be really challenging for the scientists, who had been facing numerous difficulties in building them in a bulk. A single carbon nanotube tends to be near about ten thousand times thinner as compared to a human hair, which is why it takes scientists decades for producing them. A lot of attempts for generating the carbon nanotubes in a bulk have resulted in clumped and twisted tubes thereby preventing them from functioning properly.

As seen earlier, a single carbon nanotube is shorter that implies that there is a less chance of any error to occur. The creation of the longer carbon nanotube, however, would invite a lot of obstacles. The longer ones may tangle up and get transformed into a paste and this could make the material weak. Previously the scientists have tried sorting this issue by coating the carbon nanotube with chemicals. The chemicals did stop the nanotubes from tangling and becoming a paste but they reduced the powerful potency of the material.

A research team of the Northwestern University in the United States discovered a new technique for making bulk carbon nanotubes easily, preventing the earlier hurdles. The researchers reportedly have planned a peculiar way of using them. The new study’s authors are Segi Byun, Jiaxing Huang, Kevin Chiou, and Jaemyung Kim. The findings of the study have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.

Prof. Jiaxing Huang at the Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering said in a statement, “Because of their exceptional mechanical, thermal and electrical properties, carbon nanotubes have attracted a lot of attention for a number of applications.” Further, he added, “But after decades of research and development, some of the excitement has faded.”

The scientists working at the study made use of a commonly found chemical known as cresol for the purpose. Cresol was at a time said to be a constituent of the household cleaning materials. On applying cresol to those carbon nanotubes, the scientists realized that the material actually preserved the functionality of the carbon nanotubes and kept them separated. This technique made the material to act just like polymers. The chemical (cresol) used can be later washed off easily.

The researcher Jiaxing Huang said, “It is really exciting to see cresol-based solvents make once hard-to-process carbon nanotubes as usable as common plastics.”

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