Nanotubes spun into threads open new possibilities in communications

March 16th, 2009 - 4:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 16 (IANS) Taking already proven technology to grow carbon nanotubes of record lengths, researchers have now found new applications in communications for these fibres by spinning them into strong threads.
David Mast, an associate professor of physics at the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, took a 25-micron carbon nanotube thread and created a dipole antenna using double-sided transparent tape and silver paste. He was immediately successful in transmitting radio signals.

“It transmitted almost as well as copper did, but at about one ten-thousandth of the weight,” said Mast. He was able to transmit both AM and FM signals in his lab.

Mast said that he then created a cell phone antenna, using carbon nanotubes (CNT) thread and tape. He then ripped the back off his own cell phone, tore out the phone’s original antenna and replaced it with his home-made one.

With the “nano-antenna” or “nantenna,” he was able to get four to five “bars” of service, compared to none when he removed it.

“That was a very pleasant surprise, how easy it was to do,” Mast says. “The hardest thing is to manipulate them. They float on ambient air.”

From there it was an easy leap to video, in which he was again successful. “I want to now set up a wireless webcam for the lab using these thread antennas so that others can see how well they work.”

Mast said the key to the new applications is the quality of the material that Schulz and Vesselin Shanov, also of UC, came up with using multi-wall carbon nanotubes, said an UC press release.

“They spin thread that is of such high quality, it opens the door to incredible possibilities,” said Mast. “This is just one of many potential applications.”

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