Dang. I was working on nice thoughtful post on the relationship between water and energy across a range R&D projects. Sounds good? I brushed it aside. Why? ANOTHER big breaking bit of nanotube news hit the wires. Get this. Scientists at UC Berkeley & Lawrence Berkeley National Labratory have figured out how to alter the diameter of individual carbon nanotubes … at will!

Alex Zettl and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory say carbon nanotubes’ ability to conduct electricity and other electrical and mechanical properties depends heavily on their size. However, current methods for making CNTs cannot reliably control nanotube diameter, making it more difficult to fabricate devices from nanotubes.

“We have developed a method to shrink individual nanotubes to any desired diameter,” the researchers report. “The process can be repeated in a highly controlled fashion, yielding a high-quality CNT of any pre-selected and precise diameter.”

The method, involving a high-temperature that shrinks regular-sized CNTs and reforms them into high-quality tubes of a smaller diameter, is to be detailed in the Dec. 13 issue of the journal Nano Letters.

Shrinking nanotubes
SEE HOW THEY SHRINK: A computer-generated images of the process for shrinking nanotubes.

Think this could be used to create a carbon nanotube shrunk to the diameter of H20? Think this might be a boost for desalination?

Give that carbon nanotube the right charge and you could do some serious seperations. Heck, you might not even have to consider charge. The researchers even claim that they can automate the process.

Anyhow, this looks to be another cool tool for the toolkit.

Speaking of the relationship between energy and water…a smaller diameter membrane created by the above process — could as well be used to sort out hydrogen in carbon reformation or various thermal depolymerization processes.

Also this, week a group of chemists at Rice University figured out how to grow carbon nanotubes.

    Rice University chemists today revealed the first method for cutting carbon nanotubes into “seeds” and using those seeds to sprout new nanotubes. The findings offer hope that seeded growth may one day produce the large quantities of pure nanotubes needed for dozens of materials applications.

In more nano news NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center says they have developed a cheap way to make carbon nanotubes that are either conducting or semiconducting.

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.

They’ve already lisenced the procedure to a company in Idaho that’s making products.

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.

Maybe next week I’ll do that piece on energy and water.

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