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Novel method for working with nanotubes

September 15, 2014
Northeastern University
Researchers have developed a novel method for controllably constructing precise inter-nanotube junctions and a variety of nanocarbon structures in carbon nanotube arrays. The researchers were able to tailor the physical properties of nanotube networks for use in applications from electronic devices to carbon nanotube-reinforced composite materials found in cars and sports equipment.

An inter­dis­ci­pli­nary team of researchers led by North­eastern Uni­ver­sity has devel­oped a novel method for con­trol­lably con­structing pre­cise inter-​​nanotube junc­tions and a variety of nanocarbon struc­tures in carbon nan­otube arrays. The method, the researchers say, is facile and easily scal­able, which will allow them to tailor the phys­ical prop­er­ties of nan­otube net­works for use in appli­ca­tions ranging from elec­tronic devices to CNT-​​reinforced com­posite mate­rials found in every­thing from cars to sports equipment.

Their find­ings were pub­lished on Monday in the journal Nature Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The paper -- titled "Sculpting carbon bonds for allotropic trans­for­ma­tion through solid-​​state re-​​engineering of -sp2 carbon" -- was co-​​authored by post­docs, stu­dents, and leading CNT researchers from North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nology, and the Korea Advanced Insti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­nology whose exper­tise runs from physics and mechan­ical engi­neering to mate­rials sci­ence and elec­trical engineering.

The chief archi­tect of the team's novel method for re-​​engineering carbon bonds was Hyun­y­oung Jung, the paper's lead author and a post­doc­toral fellow in the lab of co-​​author Yung Joon Jung, a nano-​​manufacturing expert and an asso­ciate pro­fessor of mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering.

Hyun­y­oung found that applying con­trolled, alter­nating voltage pulses across single-​​walled carbon nan­otube net­works trans­formed them into larger-​​diameter single-​​walled CNTs; multi-​​walled CNTs of dif­ferent mor­pholo­gies; or multi-​​layered graphene nanorribbons.

The new recon­struc­tion method -- unlike pre­vious attempts to meld nanotubes -- eschews harsh chem­i­cals and extremely high tem­per­a­tures, making the solid-​​state engi­neering tech­nique emi­nently con­ducive to scal­a­bility. What's more, the new method pro­duces mol­e­c­ular junc­tions whose elec­trical and thermal con­duc­tiv­i­ties are far supe­rior com­pared to the junction-​​free assem­bled CNT network.

Their robust phys­ical prop­er­ties, the researchers say, make these inter-​​nanotube junc­tions per­fect for rein­forcing com­posite mate­rials that require mechan­ical tough­ness, including tennis rac­quets, golf clubs, cars, and even air­planes, where carbon fibers are cur­rently being used. "Using these mate­rials for mechan­ical com­po­nents could lighten cars or other mechan­ical struc­tures without sac­ri­ficing strength," Yung Joon explained.

The researchers described the utility of their ground­breaking work through the use of a metaphor in which carbon nan­otubes were wall-​​building bricks. Fashion a wall by stacking single bricks atop each other, they said, and watch the wall come tum­bling down. But build a wall by placing cement between the bricks and marvel at the indomitable strength of the larger, single unit.

"We have filled in the gaps with cement," said co-​​author Swastik Kar, an assis­tant pro­fessor of physics at North­eastern, in keeping with the metaphor. "We started with single-​​walled carbon nan­otubes," he added, "and then used this pio­neering method to bring them together."

In addi­tion to Kar, Hyun­y­oung, and Yung Joon, the paper's North­eastern co-​​authors com­prised Younglae Kim, an ex-​​graduate stu­dent, and Sanghyung Hong, a doc­toral can­di­date in Yung Joon Jung's lab. "Pro­fessor Kar's and our groups have had a very strong col­lab­o­ra­tion for many years," Yung Joon said. "This research brings together experts from a number of dis­ci­plines to not only pro­duce a high-​​impact paper but also to gen­erate intel­lec­tual property."

The team's research was sup­ported by the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the Min­istry of Industry in the Republic of Korea.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Northeastern University. Original written by Jason Kornwitz. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Hyun Young Jung, Paulo T. Araujo, Younglae Kim, Sung Mi Jung, Xiaoting Jia, Sanghyun Hong, Chi Won Ahn, Jing Kong, Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Swastik Kar, and Yung Joon Jung. Sculpting carbon bonds for allotropic transformation through solid-state re-engineering of –sp2 carbon. Nature Communications, 2014

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Northeastern University. "Novel method for working with nanotubes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2014. <>.
Northeastern University. (2014, September 15). Novel method for working with nanotubes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2024 from
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