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April 30, 2010

New Method to Sort Carbon Nanotubes

Single-walled carbon nanotubes are coated in soap-like molecules called surfactants, then spun at tens of thousands of rotations per minute in an ultracentrifuge. The resulting density gradient sorts the nanotubes according to diameter, twist and electronic structure.

Current methods for synthesizing carbon nanotubes produce tiny tubes with a variety of diameters and properties which lack consistency and limits their use in commercial technology. Now, NSF-supported researchers at Northwestern University have developed a method to sort carbon nanotubes that vary from each other by no more than 0.02 nanometers (billionths of a meter).

This image accompanied NSF press release, "Researchers Develop Method to Sort Carbon Nanotubes by Size and Electrical Properties."

Credit: Zina Deretsky (adapted from Arnold et al.), National Science Foundation

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