Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New uses for tiny carbon nanotubes: Adding ionic liquid to nanotube films could build smaller gadgets

Date:
May 14, 2013
Source:
University of California - Riverside
Summary:
Nanotubes are stronger than steel and smaller than any element of silicon-based electronics. They can potentially process information faster while using less energy. The challenge has been figuring out how to incorporate these properties into useful electronic devices. Now scientists have discovered that by adding ionic liquid -- a kind of liquid salt -- they can modify the optical transparency of single-walled carbon nanotube films in a controlled pattern.

The atom-sized world of carbon nanotubes holds great promise for a future demanding smaller and faster electronic components. Nanotubes are stronger than steel and smaller than any element of silicon-based electronics -- the ubiquitous component of today's electrical devices -- and have better conductivity, which means they can potentially process information faster while using less energy.

The challenge has been figuring out how to incorporate all those great properties into useful electronic devices. A new discovery by four scientists at the University of California, Riverside has brought us closer to the goal. They discovered that by adding ionic liquid -- a kind of liquid salt -- they can modify the optical transparency of single-walled carbon nanotube films in a controlled pattern.

"It was a discovery, not something we were looking for," said Robert Haddon, director of UC Riverside's Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Scientists Feihu Wang, Mikhail Itkis and Elena Bekyarova were looking at ways to improve the electrical behavior of carbon nanotubes, and as part of their research they also looked at whether they could modulate the transparency of the films. An article about their findings was published online in April in Nature Photonics.

The scientists spent some time trying to affect the optical properties of carbon nanotube films with an electric field, with little success, said Itkis, a research scientist at the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. "But when we applied a thin layer of an ionic liquid on top of the nanotube film we noticed that the change of transparency is amplified 100 times and that the change in transparency occurs in the vicinity of one of the electrodes, so we started studying what causes these drastic changes and how to create transparency in controlled patterns."

An ionic liquid contains negative and positive ions which can interact with the nanotubes, dramatically influencing their ability to store an electrical charge. That increases or decreases their transparency, similar to the way that glasses darken in sunlight. By learning how to manipulate the transparency, scientists may be able to start incorporating nanotube films into products that now rely on slower or heavier components, such as metal oxide.

For instance, using nanotube films meshed with a film of ionic liquid, scientists could create more cost effective Smart Windows, that darken when it's hot outside and become lighter when it's cold.

"Smart Windows are a new industry that has been shown to save 50 percent of your energy costs," said Itkis. "On a very hot day you can shade your window just by turning a switch, so you don't have to use as much air conditioning. And on a winter day, you can make a window more transparent to let in more light."

The scientists still need to study the economic viability of using nanotube film, but Bekyarova said one possible advantage would be that carbon nanotubes are ultra thin -- about 1,000 times smaller than a single strand of hair -- so you would need very little to cover a large area, such as the windows of a large building.

Itkis said nanotube films also hold great promise in building lighter and more compact analytical instruments such as spectrometers, which are used to analyze the properties of light.

In this application, a nanotube film with an array of electrodes can be used as an electrically configurable diffraction grating for an infrared spectrometer, allowing the wavelength of light to be scanned without moving parts.

Furthermore, by using addressable electrodes, the spatial pattern of the induced transparency in the nanotube film can be modified in a controlled way and used as an electrically configurable optical media for storage and transfer of information via patterns of light.

Carbon nanotubes have great potential, but there is still plenty of work to be done to make them useful in electronics and optoelectronics, Haddon said.

"The challenge is to harness their outstanding properties," he said. "They won't be available at Home Depot next week, but there is continuing progress in the field."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Riverside. The original article was written by Jeanette Marantos. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Feihu Wang, Mikhail E. Itkis, Elena Bekyarova, Robert C. Haddon. Charge-compensated, semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotube thin film as an electrically configurable optical medium. Nature Photonics, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2013.66

Cite This Page:

University of California - Riverside. "New uses for tiny carbon nanotubes: Adding ionic liquid to nanotube films could build smaller gadgets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130514190643.htm>.
University of California - Riverside. (2013, May 14). New uses for tiny carbon nanotubes: Adding ionic liquid to nanotube films could build smaller gadgets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130514190643.htm
University of California - Riverside. "New uses for tiny carbon nanotubes: Adding ionic liquid to nanotube films could build smaller gadgets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130514190643.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shipping Crates Get New 'lease' On Life

Shipping Crates Get New 'lease' On Life

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 25, 2014) Shipping containers have been piling up as America imports more than it exports. Some university students in Washington D.C. are set to get a first-hand lesson in recycling. Their housing is being built using refashioned shipping containers. Lily Jamali reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins