right out of science fiction

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by CSM, Aug 19, 2005.

  1. CSM
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    CSM Senior Member

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    USA Today
    August 19, 2005
    Pg. 3

    Nanotech Researchers Report Big Breakthrough

    By Dan Vergano, USA Today

    An advance in nanotechnology may lead to the creation of artificial muscles, superstrong electric cars and wallpaper-thin electronics, researchers report.

    Nanotechnology has tantalized researchers for decades, promising a new era in stronger and lighter electronic materials. Nanotechnology is the science of engineering such properties at the molecular, or nanometer, scale. For all its promise, the technology has mostly been locked in laboratories.

    In today's edition of the journal Science, however, scientists from the University of Texas and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization report the creation of industry-ready sheets of materials made from nanotubes. Nanotubes are tiny carbon tubes with remarkable strength that are only a few times wider than atoms. They can also act as the semiconductors found in modern electronics.

    “This is fundamentally a new material,” says team leader Ray Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson.

    *Self-supporting, transparent and stronger than steel or high-strength plastics, the sheets are flexible and can be heated to emit light.

    *A square mile of the thinnest sheets, about 2-millionths-of-an-inch thick, would weigh only about 170 pounds.

    *In lab tests, the sheets demonstrated solar cell capabilities, using sunlight to produce electricity.

    The team has developed an automated process that produced 2¾-inch-wide strips of nanotubes at a rate of about 47 feet per minute. Other methods take much longer to create nanotube sheets.

    “The technique is most elegant and the applications they've shown are quite impressive,” says nanotube expert Shalom Wind of Columbia University in New York. Industry and academic researchers are already regarding nanotubes with avid interest, he adds.

    Future applications that scientists have discussed include creating artificial muscles whose movement is electrically charged, or race cars with stronger, lighter bodies that could also serve as batteries, says chemist Andrew Barron of Rice University in Houston.

    “We could see this on Formula 1 (racing) cars by next season, Barron says. “This is a jumping-off point for a technology a lot of people will pursue.”

    Wind is more cautious about the future. “We'll really have to wait to see the impact this has and whether it will pan out in commercial technology.”

    The federal government has made nanotechnology a research priority in recent years. Funding for the scientists' research came from the Defense Department, the Texas government and a partnership of nanotechnology labs.

    The research team suggests first using the nanotube sheets as transparent antennae for cars or as electrically heated windows.

    “We do need to think of a catchier name than ‘nanotube sheets,' ” Baughman says.


    I have to wonder why Formula I racing cars and not commuter cars or personal transportation....seems to me that if this really works it would go a long way in developing new energy resources.
     
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  2. dilloduck
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    dilloduck Diamond Member

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    Cool stuff but I'm sure at this time the price is prohibitive for use on commuter cars----it's a start tho!
     
  3. CSM
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    CSM Senior Member

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    I am not too sure about price, but if they can make enough for the Formula I racing community it wont be long before they can make it cost efficient for use in the everyday market ESPECIALLY if it can defray the cost of fuel (the new impropved hybrid vehicle?).
     
  4. Gunny
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    Gunny Gold Member

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    Cars? I was thinking "knees"! ;)
     
  5. pegwinn
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    pegwinn Top of the Food Chain

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    Awesome topic Sergeant Major. I read another article (can't find it or i'd link it here) that discussed a cancer treatment. Basically those same nano tubes are injected into the vicinity of a tumor, and they latch onto the tumor cells. When bathed in a certain freq of light they heat up, killing the cancer cell and leaving surrounding tissue unharmed.

    I can sympathise with the need for shoulders and knees too.

    Edited to add that I found the cancer story. Since it is off topic to this one, anyone interested can scope it out here. Whew, credibility intact.
     

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