Superlong carbon nanotubes

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Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby The Reaper » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:14 pm UTC

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/23921/
A new method for assembling carbon nanotubes has been used to create fibers hundreds of meters long. Individual carbon nanotubes are strong, lightweight, and electrically conductive, and could be valuable as, among other things, electrical transmission wires. But aligning masses of the nanotubes into well-ordered materials such as fibers has proven challenging at a scale suitable for manufacturing. By processing carbon nanotubes in a solution called a superacid, researchers at Rice University have made long fibers that might be used as lightweight, efficient wires for the electrical grid or as the basis of structural materials and conductive textiles.

Others have made carbon-nanotube fibers by pulling the tubes from solid hair-like arrays or by spinning them like wool as they emerge from a chemical reactor. The problem with starting from a solid, says Rice chemical engineering professor Matteo Pasquali, is that "the alignment is not spectacular, and these methods are difficult to scale up." The better aligned and ordered the individual nanotubes in a larger structure, the better the collective structure's electrical and mechanical properties. Using the Rice methods, well-aligned nanotube fibers can be made on a large scale, shot out from a nozzle similar to a showerhead.

The late Nobel laureate Richard Smalley started the Rice project in 2001. Smalley knew solution-processing would be a good way to assemble nanotube fibers and films because of nanotubes' shape. Carbon nanotubes are much longer than they are wide, so when they're in a flowing solution, they line up like logs floating down a river. But carbon nanotubes aren't soluble in conventional solvents. The Rice group laid the foundations for liquid processing of the nanotubes five years ago, when they discovered that sulfuric acid brings the nanotubes into solution by coating their surfaces with positively charged ions.

For the past five years, the Rice group has used microscopy to study nanotube solutions made in several different acids. "There was no quick experiment," Pasquali says. "We had to be very deliberate. We now understand how the solution processing works, the knobs to control the nanotubes, and how to predict what they'll do." The best solvent for processing the tubes, according to work published this month in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, is chlorosulphonic acid. Nanotubes spontaneously dissolve in this acid at concentrations 1,000 times greater than they do in any other solvent.

The Rice group has used acid processing methods to assemble carbon nanotubes into fibers 50 micrometers thick and hundreds of meters long. "There are no limitations on the fiber length," says Pasquali. The Rice group demonstrated its assembly method with high-quality, single-walled carbon nanotubes.

So far, the group has made fibers that are highly conductive but not as strong as other carbon materials. Pasquali says the strength of the fibers could probably be improved tenfold by using longer carbon nanotubes. "We're now working on a project for making electrical transmission lines," says Pasquali. "Metallic nanotubes conduct electricity better than copper, they're lighter, and they fail less often."

One important hurdle for large-scale manufacturing of carbon nanotubes remains: Today, there aren't any good methods for making the nanotubes themselves in large, pure batches. In order to make nanotube transmission lines, for example, the Rice group would need to start with a large batch of nanotubes containing all metallic nanotubes and no semiconducting ones. Last month, chemists at the Honda Research Institute published a paper in Science describing a method for making large amounts of metallic nanotubes that Pasquali says is promising. "For transmission lines you need to make tons, and there are no methods now to do that," he says. "We are one miracle away."
I want my space elevator, like yesterday.

http://www.physorg.com/news176809468.html
A Seattle team has collected a $900,000 prize in a NASA-backed competition to develop the concept of an elevator to space - an idea spurred by science fiction novels.

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Xeio » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:48 pm UTC

Fuck the space elevator, I want a supergrid! How else are scientists going to run their evil experiments if they brown out half the country and run out of power?

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby The Reaper » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:50 pm UTC

Lets do both maybe? I don't think we'll run out of carbon anytime soon.

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Vieto » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:58 pm UTC

The Reaper wrote:Lets do both maybe? I don't think we'll run out of carbon anytime soon.


If they could take their carbon directly from the atmosphere, I'd be doubly impressed.

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Briareos » Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:02 pm UTC

Guys, you're doing it wrong. We want to reduce carbon! REDUCE! (Carbon bad.)

Seriously, this is pretty awesome. I also want my space elevator.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Cynical Idealist » Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:08 pm UTC

Briareos wrote:Guys, you're doing it wrong. We want to reduce carbon! REDUCE! (Carbon bad.)

No, we want to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. This is why plants are awesome (they take in carbon dioxide and use the carbon to make sugars, and expel the waste oxygen). Using carbon for nanotube-transmission-grid would also be doing that.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Briareos » Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:11 pm UTC

Cynical Idealist wrote:
Briareos wrote:Guys, you're doing it wrong. We want to reduce carbon! REDUCE! (Carbon bad.)

No, we want to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. This is why plants are awesome (they take in carbon dioxide and use the carbon to make sugars, and expel the waste oxygen). Using carbon for nanotube-transmission-grid would also be doing that.
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And more conductive than copper? That's impressive. Missed that on the first read. But space elevators will still be my first choice for carbon nanotube applications.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Zeroignite » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:46 am UTC

Woah.
There are dozens of applications for carbon nanotubes that have showed a ton of potential, but have run headfirst into the fact that we can't make them in any appreciable length. Now, if we can figure out how to do this on an industrial scale (And I doubt that too hard), there are a ridiculous number of awesome things we can do. Space elevators, power transmission, structural parts... the list goes on.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby headprogrammingczar » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:54 am UTC

And don't forget, our computers will be made out of graphene.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Josephine » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:11 am UTC

This is amazing. There has been some really cool stuff going on lately.

In connection with the Space Hotel 2012 thread, here's your space elevator.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Levi » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:16 am UTC

I'm thinking bulletproof armor.

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Josephine » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:17 am UTC

Levi wrote:I'm thinking bulletproof armor.

hmm. Its tensile strength is absurd, but I wonder what the compression strength of the stuff is.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Zamfir » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:03 am UTC

Levi wrote:I'm thinking bulletproof armor.

I doubt it. Aramids, the usual fibers for armor, are especially good for that purpose because its polymer chains make very tough crosslinks with each other. The trouble then is to prevent too much crosslinking during production, and aramids work because it just possible to produce fibers from it before it turns into a massive tough blob in your machines.

Carbon tubes are the exact opposite: it's hard to make fibers because the individual chains don't like to form any bonds with each other. So I doubt the resulting materials will have the tenacity typical of armor type fibers.

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Sizik » Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:40 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Levi wrote:I'm thinking bulletproof armor.

I doubt it. Aramids, the usual fibers for armor, are especially good for that purpose because its polymer chains make very tough crosslinks with each other. The trouble then is to prevent too much crosslinking during production, and aramids work because it just possible to produce fibers from it before it turns into a massive tough blob in your machines.

Carbon tubes are the exact opposite: it's hard to make fibers because the individual chains don't like to form any bonds with each other. So I doubt the resulting materials will have the tenacity typical of armor type fibers.


What if you weave them into cloth?
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Ishindri » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:26 pm UTC

Sizik wrote:
Zamfir wrote:
Levi wrote:I'm thinking bulletproof armor.

I doubt it. Aramids, the usual fibers for armor, are especially good for that purpose because its polymer chains make very tough crosslinks with each other. The trouble then is to prevent too much crosslinking during production, and aramids work because it just possible to produce fibers from it before it turns into a massive tough blob in your machines.

Carbon tubes are the exact opposite: it's hard to make fibers because the individual chains don't like to form any bonds with each other. So I doubt the resulting materials will have the tenacity typical of armor type fibers.


What if you weave them into cloth?

Then you get this.

http://money.cnn.com/2009/09/16/smallbu ... 2009091713
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Arancaytar » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:37 pm UTC

headprogrammingczar wrote:And don't forget, our computers will be made out of graphene.


Not optical?
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby frezik » Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:09 pm UTC

Xeio wrote:Fuck the space elevator, I want a supergrid! How else are scientists going to run their evil experiments if they brown out half the country and run out of power?


The Reaper wrote:Lets do both maybe? I don't think we'll run out of carbon anytime soon.


Not only can you do both, but you should. A nanotube space elevator makes it really easy to build a space-based solar platform, which you can beam back into the grid, which is carried around in more nanotubes, which lets you run evil experiments. It's win-win, really.

The other side is that even if nanotubes of the needed strength are never made, then they'll still be useful for making rockets lighter.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Dauric » Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:35 pm UTC

frezik wrote:
Xeio wrote:Fuck the space elevator, I want a supergrid! How else are scientists going to run their evil experiments if they brown out half the country and run out of power?


The Reaper wrote:Lets do both maybe? I don't think we'll run out of carbon anytime soon.


Not only can you do both, but you should. A nanotube space elevator makes it really easy to build a space-based solar platform, which you can beam back into the grid, which is carried around in more nanotubes, which lets you run evil experiments. It's win-win, really.

The other side is that even if nanotubes of the needed strength are never made, then they'll still be useful for making rockets lighter.


Even if nanotubes of the correct length are made they'll be useful for reducing a space-craft's mass, thus extending the usefulness of any needed amount of reaction mass. Space elevators aren't cool just because they extend in to space from the ground, they're cool because there's a space station with spaceships at the top that take us even further than the elevator itself can.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby MrGee » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:07 am UTC

Personally, I'd settle for a pair of carbon nanotube jeans. They'd last forever!

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Soralin » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:48 am UTC

I still say Launch Loop > Space elevator, even with suitable materials available.

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby The Utilitarian » Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:10 am UTC

I want a carbon nanotube straw, finally I can drink the thickest milkshake ever without my straw collapsing. Science!

Seriously though. Space. Elevator. Chop chop engineers.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby phonon266737 » Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:39 pm UTC

The only problem is that this fiber only has a tensile strength of ~ 1 GPa. You still have the issue that nanotubes don't stick to each other very well. We've been making nanotube bulk materials in my lab for a long time by drying them out of sovlent phase. This is a little bit stronger because of their alignment, but you still need 3 orders before it's space elevator time.

In other words, this fiber is still only 1/4 the strength of kevlar.

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby frezik » Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:17 am UTC

Soralin wrote:I still say Launch Loop > Space elevator, even with suitable materials available.


I'm glad the Launch Loop is becoming more well-known. However, one thing about a space elevator is that it's pretty well thought out at this point. We know what kind of materials are needed, more or less how to build a robot to climb the initial cable, and an understanding of the economics. We're just twiddling our thumbs until somebody makes a material that can take the tensile strength while also being light enough to launch the initial cable.

Nobody has given a Launch Loop nearly so much thought. Cost estimates are based on the idea that it should take x dollars per km of loop, and it will need to be y km long--not much more detail than that. It's also a very large dynamic structure, and it's not clear how engineers could start out building smaller dynamic structures and work up to that scale.

The idea is promising, but somebody needs to sit down and give it a good think. And then get to building the sucker so we're not relying on rocket technology the Chinese were playing with 1000 years ago.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Sharlos » Fri Nov 13, 2009 7:34 am UTC

Not to mention the amount of space you would need to dedicate to a launch loop, while an elevator would only need something like an off-shore oil rig.

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Chen » Fri Nov 13, 2009 1:29 pm UTC

Sharlos wrote:Not to mention the amount of space you would need to dedicate to a launch loop, while an elevator would only need something like an off-shore oil rig.


Yeah both the launch loop and things like an earth based mass driver all have fairly large problems in terms of area. A space elevator is massively superior in these conditions. Though I suppose a launch loop or mass driver solely used for non-living payloads could be a fair bit smaller (no need to be as conservative with G forces).

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Cynical Idealist » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:20 pm UTC

Has anyone mentioned space fountains yet?

Because space fountains are really cool, and they need to be mentioned.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby frezik » Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:50 pm UTC

Sharlos wrote:Not to mention the amount of space you would need to dedicate to a launch loop, while an elevator would only need something like an off-shore oil rig.


Compared to the other engineering challenges, I don't think this is a big deal. The US holds Baker and Howland islands, both in the Pacific and near the equator. They're currently uninhabited and have a whole ocean of space around them. Whether you build a space elevator or a launch loop, you'll probably end up putting it on one of those.

The big challenge is just getting enough power and transport ability out there. I heard one excellent solution a while back, both practically and symbolically, is to co-opt the carrier USS Enterprise for the job. It's going to be retired in a few years, and it has a nuclear power plant on board.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby The Reaper » Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:00 pm UTC

frezik wrote:The big challenge is just getting enough power and transport ability out there. I heard one excellent solution a while back, both practically and symbolically, is to co-opt the carrier USS Enterprise for the job. It's going to be retired in a few years, and it has a nuclear power plant on board.
But what if someone wants to steal particles from the nukelear wessels?

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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Dauric » Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:54 pm UTC

The Reaper wrote:
frezik wrote:The big challenge is just getting enough power and transport ability out there. I heard one excellent solution a while back, both practically and symbolically, is to co-opt the carrier USS Enterprise for the job. It's going to be retired in a few years, and it has a nuclear power plant on board.
But what if someone wants to steal particles from the nukelear wessels?

Then they're obviously from the future and have phasers. Get out of the way or become a cloud of dissociated atoms.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Josephine » Fri Nov 13, 2009 7:42 pm UTC

frezik wrote:co-opt the carrier USS Enterprise for the job. It's going to be retired in a few years, and it has a nuclear power plant on board.


Awesome idea. But does it really need that much power? Wikipedia says it has 210 MW available. If you're going to use a laser, then yes, but if the cable is to be climbed mechanically, then it doesn't need quite that much.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Dauric » Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:19 pm UTC

nbonaparte wrote:
frezik wrote:co-opt the carrier USS Enterprise for the job. It's going to be retired in a few years, and it has a nuclear power plant on board.


Awesome idea. But does it really need that much power? Wikipedia says it has 210 MW available. If you're going to use a laser, then yes, but if the cable is to be climbed mechanically, then it doesn't need quite that much.


Need power for ancillary needs as well, like living spaces, mess halls, gift shop lighting...
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby frezik » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:33 pm UTC

nbonaparte wrote:
frezik wrote:co-opt the carrier USS Enterprise for the job. It's going to be retired in a few years, and it has a nuclear power plant on board.


Awesome idea. But does it really need that much power? Wikipedia says it has 210 MW available. If you're going to use a laser, then yes, but if the cable is to be climbed mechanically, then it doesn't need quite that much.


The laser is for beaming power to the climber, so yeah, you need that much. Lasers are ridiculously inefficient.

For a launch loop, you're going to need at least that much power. Probably a lot more. Bring along a couple D-cells to help.
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Re: Superlong carbon nanotubes

Postby Ralith The Third » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:41 am UTC

I want to poke it.

And then I want two of them that are about four feet long to sword fight with.
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