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Mcmaster Researchers Resolve a Problem That Has Been Holding Back a Technological Revolution

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Artistic rendition of a metallic carbon nanotube being pulled into solution.

Researchers at McMaster University say they have developed a way to purify carbon nanotubes.

Credit: Alex Adronov

McMaster University researchers say they have developed a way to purify carbon nanotubes, solving the issue of untangling metallic and semiconducting carbon nanotubes, which are both created simultaneously in the process of producing the microscopic structures.

Normally, this process involves heating carbon-based gases to a point in which mixed clusters of nanotubes form spontaneously.

The researchers achieved the breakthrough by reversing the electronic characteristics of a polymer known to disperse semiconducting nanotubes, while leaving the rest of the polymer's structure intact. This method enabled the researchers to leave the semiconducting nanotubes behind while making it possible to disperse the metallic nanotubes.

The researchers note scientists have spent years trying to find effective and efficient ways to isolate carbon nanotubes and unleash their value.

The next step is for the researchers to exploit this discovery by finding a way to develop even more efficient polymers and scale up the process for commercial production.

"Once we have a reliable source of pure nanotubes that are not very expensive, a lot can happen very quickly," says McMaster University professor Alex Adronov.

The technology is expected to revolutionize computers and electronics by replacing much larger silicon-based chips.

From McMaster Daily News
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