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Press Release 07-055

The Longest Carbon Nanotubes You've Ever Seen

Crafted with breakthrough manufacturing technique, centimeter-long fibers are visible to the naked eye

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have grown the world's longest carbon nanotube arrays.


Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have grown the world's longest carbon nanotube arrays.
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May 10, 2007

Using techniques that could revolutionize manufacturing for certain materials, researchers have grown carbon nanotubes that are the longest in the world. While still slightly less than 2 centimeters long, each nanotube is 900,000 times longer than its diameter.

The fibers--which have the potential to be longer, stronger and better conductors of electricity than copper and many other materials--could ultimately find use in smart fabrics, sensors and a host of other applications.

To grow the aligned bundles of tiny tubes, the researchers combined advantages of chemical vapor deposition (CVD), a technique for creating thin coatings that is especially common in the semiconductor industry, with a novel substrate and catalyst onto which the carbon attaches.

Supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Office of Naval Research, University of Cincinnati (UC) professors Vesselin Shanov and Mark Schulz collaborated with post-doctoral researcher Yun Yeo Heung and students to develop the technique.

The researchers partnered with First Nano, a division of CVD Equipment Corp. of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., to use their laboratory and a specialized furnace called the EasyTube 3000. With the equipment, the researchers were able to break apart hydrocarbons to create a vapor of carbon-atom starting material. Within the vapor sat the new substrate--a catalyst made of alternating metal and ceramic layers atop an oxidized-silicon wafer base--which served as the foundation for growth.

"This process is revolutionary because it allows us to keep the catalyst 'alive' for a long period of time thus, providing fast and continuous transport of the carbon 'building blocks' to the carbon nanotube growth zone," said Shanov.

The carbon nanotubes are extremely long compared to predecessors--the longest is 3 millimeters beyond the prior world record. More important for manufacturing, the research team grew a 12-millimeters-thick, uniform carpet of aligned carbon nanotubes on a roughly 10-centimeter silicon substrate, opening the door for scaling-up the process.

The inventions were presented in April 2007 at the Single Wall Carbon Nanotube Nucleation and Growth Mechanisms workshop organized by NASA and Rice University. The research was supported by NSF grant 0510823, in addition to support from the Office of Naval Research through North Carolina A&T SU.

Additional information is available in the University of Cincinnati press release at: http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=5700

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-7730, jchamot@nsf.gov
Wendy Beckman, University of Cincinnati, (513) 556-1826, beckmawh@ucmail.uc.edu

Program Contacts
Shih Chi Liu, NSF, (703) 292-7017, sliu@nsf.gov
Jimmy Hsia, NSF, (703) 292-7020, jhsia@nsf.gov
Mihail C. Roco, NSF, (703) 292-8301, mroco@nsf.gov

Co-Investigators
Mark Schulz, University of Cincinnati, (513) 556-4132, Mark.j.schulz@uc.edu
Vesselin Shanov, University of Cincinnati, (513) 556-2461, Vesselin.shanov@uc.edu

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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The carbon nanotubes grew atop a specially designed wafer catalyst.
The carbon nanotubes grew atop a specially designed wafer catalyst.
Credit and Larger Version

University of Cincinnati researchers have created the longest carbon nanotubes in the world.
University of Cincinnati researchers have created the longest carbon nanotubes in the world.
Credit and Larger Version