Move over, silicon. In a breakthrough in the quest for the next generation of computers and materials, researchers at USC have solved a long-standing challenge with carbon nanotubes: how to actually build them with specific, predictable atomic structures. The nanotubes are tubes of graphene, which is made from sheets of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. (Courtesy of Chongwu Zhou and Jia Liu) “We are solving a fundamental problem of the carbon nanotube,” said Chongwu Zhou, professor in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and corresponding author of the study published on Aug. 23 in the journal Nano Letters. “To be able to control the atomic structure, or chirality, of nanotubes has basically been our dream, a dream in the nanotube field.” If this is an age built on silicon, then the next one may be built on carbon nanotubes, which have shown promise in everything from optics to energy storage to touch screens. Not only are nanotubes transparent, but this research discovery on how to control the atomic structure of nanotubes will pave the way for computers that are smaller, faster and more energy efficient than those reliant on silicon transistors. “We
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