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Scientists untangle nanotubes to release their potential for electronics

29 October 2013

Researchers have demonstrated how to produce electronic inks for the development of new applications using the carbon nanotubes.

Image: Shutterstock

Carbon nanotubes are lightweight, strong and conduct electricity. They are hollow, spaghetti-like strands made from the same material as graphene - just one nanometre thick but with theoretically unlimited length. Though considered an ideal material for new electronics devices, they cannot be used without being separated out from their natural tangled state. 

By giving the nanotubes an electrical charge, Dr Stephen Hodge and Professor Milo Shaffer, both from Imperial's Department of Chemistry, were able to pull apart individual strands. Using this method, nanotubes can be sorted or refined, then deposited in a uniform layer onto the surface of any object.

Working with industrial partner, Linde Electronics, they have produced an electrically-conductive carbon nanotube ink, which coats carbon nanotubes onto ultra-thin sheets of transparent film that are used to manufacture flat-screen televisions and computer screens.

This was developed by Professor Shaffer and colleagues from the London Centre for Nanotechnology, which includes fellow Imperial scientist Dr Siân Fogden, as well as Dr Chris Howard and Professor Neal Skipper from UCL.

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