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Slippery When Wet: Fluids Race Through Nearly Frictionless Carbon Nanotubes

Date:
November 17, 2005
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Within the cells of our bodies, fluids flow rapidly through miniscule, nearly frictionless, protein channels. Until now, human-made nanoscale structures have not been able to mimic those same speeds because the fluids flow slowly along the walls of the tiny structures. Researchers have now found that carbon nanotubes only 7 billionths of a meter in diameter can channel many fluids nearly friction free.
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In this illustration, water travels through carbon nanotubes at a rate 10,000 to 100,000 times faster than models predict.
Credit: M. Denomme, University of Kentucky

Within the cells of our bodies, fluids flow rapidly through miniscule, nearly frictionless, protein channels. Until now, human-made nanoscale structures have not been able to mimic those same speeds because the fluids flow slowly along the walls of the tiny structures.

Researchers have now found that carbon nanotubes only 7 billionths of a meter in diameter can channel many fluids nearly friction free. With some fluids, the interiors of the tubes were so slippery that substances sailed through 10,000-100,000 times faster than models had predicted.

For the experiments, chemical and materials engineers Bruce Hinds, a National Science Foundation CAREER awardee, Mainak Majumder, Nitin Chopra and Rodney Andrews of the University of Kentucky fabricated membranes made from billions of aligned carbon nanotubes. The fabrication techniques easily adapt to large-scale production, which is important for industries that could use such membranes for separating commodity chemicals.

Hinds and his colleagues crafted the membranes so that each side can have different chemical properties. As a result, the selective membrane could one day be used to deliver drugs through the skin or in specialized chemical sensors.

The findings appeared in the Oct. 3, 2005, issue of the journal Nature.


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National Science Foundation. "Slippery When Wet: Fluids Race Through Nearly Frictionless Carbon Nanotubes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051117114309.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2005, November 17). Slippery When Wet: Fluids Race Through Nearly Frictionless Carbon Nanotubes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051117114309.htm
National Science Foundation. "Slippery When Wet: Fluids Race Through Nearly Frictionless Carbon Nanotubes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051117114309.htm (accessed July 30, 2015).

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