The manifold properties of carbon nanotubes (as well as other carbon nanomaterials such as fullerenes and graphene) are related to the various ways the carbon atoms can be arranged to form the tube lattice. Studies have shown that atomic-scale defects in these lattices can strongly influence the electronic and mechanical properties of the nanotubes. The simplest defect type is a vacancy where an atom is missing from the lattice site. Such defects can also be seen as chemically active sites for tube side wall functionalization. Due to the difficulty of observing vacancies directly, it remained unclear under what conditions vacancies in nanotubes are stable or exist at all. Researchers have now demonstrated a technique that allows them to remove carbon atoms from carbon nanotubes with atomic precision and in a controlled way with an extremely focused electron beam.
The importance of novel markers for microcopy cannot be underestimated. Such markers can provide novel information about functioning of protein in cell. Owing to their unlimited photostability diamond nanoparticles can be used for long-term monitoring of intracellular processes. Diamond nanoparticles also appear to be ideal candidates for ultra microscopy techniques like STED. Furthermore, nitrogen-vacancy color centers in diamond have non-zero spin in the ground state. This allows their use as markers for magnetic resonance imaging with very high sensitivity. To date, few methods exist to produce diamond nanoparticles containing color centers (c-diamond), but they are only laboratory-scale. The most common, large-scale nanodiamond production method, detonation, produces diamond nanoparticles which do not contain any color centers but impurities such as surface-or lattice-aggregated nitrogen and metals in significant amounts. A German-French research team has now developed a high yield method for the large-scale production of fluorescent nanodiamonds.
In a previous Spotlight we wrote about the fact that the environmental footprint created by today's nanomanufacturing technologies are conflicting with the general perception that nanotechnology is 'green' and clean. Adding to these concerns, a new study looks at the waste solids generated by the production of metallofullerenes and fullerenes and addresses the question whether feedstock-associated metals pose potential risks to aquatic receptors. The intent of this new study was to communicate that the purity of nanomaterials should be heavily characterized to ensure that the toxicological ramifications of the actual finished nanoproduct is accurately represented. Additionally, the authors suggest that carbon nanomanufacturing byproducts should be characterized so as to facilitate more informed decision-making on management of their associated waste streams.
Increasing the efficiencies of polymer-based solar cells while at the same time keeping production complexity and cost low will require the preparation of new classes of polymers that can be prepared with a minimum of synthetic steps. Combining strong electron acceptors such as fullerenes (C60) with commodity polymers to make electronically active polymers promises to be one possible route. So far, though, the photovoltaic efficiencies of polymer/C60 blends are generally not as good as those for photovoltaic devices made from the currently used main classes of polymers, P3HT and PCBM. Researchers in France came up with a way to very simply prepare polymers from fullerenes without having to strongly change the aromaticity of the C60 sphere. This means that many of the original properties of C60 may be found to be retained even when combined with the beneficial properties of polymers.
Theoretical studies have long predicted that the exceptional physical and chemical properties of a rigid monatomic linear chain of carbon atoms could function as the component of molecular devices, for instance in nanoelectronics. The problem has been that there was no reliable and effective way to produce these carbon chains and therefore scientists couldn't study them experimentally. While linear carbon chains have been already prepared either in solution or by vaporizing graphite, researchers in Japan have for the first time succeeded to derive the carbon atomic chains from graphene in a well controlled manner. This approach to realize freestanding carbon atomic chains employs energetic electron irradiation inside a transmission electron microscope.
In a previous Nanowerk Spotlight we have reported about the work of Chinese scientists who demonstrated that a sheet of carbon nanotube (CNT) thin film could be a practical magnet-free loudspeaker simply by applying an audio frequency current through it . The team has now reported that their CNT films can also work as an incandescent display, driven by a simple addressing circuit with response times faster than that of liquid crystal displays (LCDs). At the same time, the incandescent light of the CNT film is almost nonpolarized, and will not have the viewing-angle problem of LCDs. The CNT films in vacuum can be heated to incandescence and cooled down in about 1 millisecond by turning on and shutting off the heating voltage.
The prospect of stretchable electronics opens some exciting possibilities - for instance, think about artificial skin with an integrated, stretchable touchscreen display. To get there, researchers have begun developing elastic electrical wiring that is both highly conductive and highly stretchable. Currently existing stretchable materials do already exhibit excellent conductivity and mechanical stretchability but they have one major disadvantage: their manufacturing processes are not readily scalable, which means it is difficult or cost-prohibitive to apply them to large-area electronics. A research team in Japan has now successfully fabricated, for the first time, novel elastic conductors that can be directly patterned by printing processes. This novel, printable elastic conductor comprises single-walled carbon nanotubes uniformly dispersed in a highly elastic fluorinated copolymer rubber.
New work at the University of Arkansas has, for the very first time, demonstrated that Raman spectroscopy can be used to detect and monitor circulating carbon nanotubes in vivo and in real time. These findings could have a significant impact on the knowledge of how nanomaterials interact with living biological systems. Carbon nanotubes can be used for various advanced bio-medical applications. Before any clinical application of nanoparticles, it is imperative to determine critical in vivo parameters, namely pharmacological profiles including nanoparticle clearance rate from the circulation and their biodistribution in various tissue and organs. Until now, their distribution was only monitored by collecting samples after various time intervals, but this new research shows the ability of monitoring their concentration in vivo and in real time, while the animal is alive. Moreover, this work can be extended to the detection of circulating cancer cells that have been tagged by carbon nanotubes.