The discovery of numerous nanomaterials has added a new dimension to the rapid development of nanotechnology. Consequently, the professional and public exposure to nanomaterials is supposed to increase dramatically in the coming years. Especially, carbon-based nanomaterials (CBNs) are currently considered to be one of the key elements in nanotechnology. Their potential applications range from biomedicine through nanoelectronics to mechanical engineering. Thus, it is primordial to know the health hazards related to their exposure. As the public calls for safety studies get louder more and more researchers begin to study the potential toxicity of nanomaterials. Especially carbon-based nanomaterials, due to their numerous and wide-ranging applications and increasing real life usage, get nanotoxicological attention. Scientists in Switzerland studied the toxicity of carbon- based nanomaterials (nanotubes, nanofibers and nanowires) as a function of their aspect ratio and surface chemistry. Their work clearly indicates that these materials are toxic while the hazardous effect is size-dependent.
With its historic development tracing back to the Bronze Age, welding serves modern industry in broad areas such as construction, manufacturing, and engineering. Spot welding,a type of resistance welding used to weld various sheet metals, was originally developed in the early 1900s. The process uses two shaped copper alloy electrodes to concentrate welding current and force between the materials to be welded. The result is a small "spot" that is quickly heated to the melting point, forming a nugget of welded metal after the current is removed. Perhaps the most common application of spot welding is in the automobile industry, where it is used almost universally to weld the sheet metal forming a car. Spot welders can also be completely automated, and many of the industrial robots found on assembly lines are spot welders. With the continuing development of bottom-up nanotechnology fabrication processes, with self-assembly at its core, spot welding may likewise play an important role in interconnecting carbon nanotubes (CNTs), nanowires, nanobelts, nanohelixes, and other nanomaterials and structures for the assembly of nanoelectronics and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS).
The controlled synthesis of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), which generally requires a nanoscale catalyst metal, is crucial for their application to nanotechnology. In the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) of SWCNTs, the known effective catalyst species are the iron-family elements iron, cobalt, and nickel, with which a high SWCNT yield can be obtained. However, gold, silver, and copper have never been reported to produce SWCNTs. It is well known that iron, cobalt, and nickel have the catalytic function of graphite formation but that gold does not. The difference between the iron-family metals and gold is that the binding energy of carbon is much larger for the iron-family metals. Carbon atoms cannot stay on gold long enough to form a graphitic network. Thus, it is rather natural for iron, cobalt, and nickel to generate SWCNTs, but it is totally unexpected that gold would produce them too. The same picture is applicable to silver and copper. Nevertheless, researchers in Japan succeeded in developing a nanoparticle activation method that shows that even gold, silver, and copper act as efficient catalysts for SWCNT synthesis. These non-magnetic catalysts could provide new routes for controlling the growth of SWCNTs.
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have great potential applications in making ballistic-resistance materials. The remarkable properties of CNTs makes them an ideal candidate for reinforcing polymers and other materials, and could lead to applications such as bullet-proof vests as light as a T-shirt, shields, and explosion-proof blankets. For these applications, thinner, lighter, and flexible materials with superior dynamic mechanical properties are required. A new study by researchers in Australia explores the energy absorption capacity of a single-walled carbon nanotube under a ballistic impact. The result offers a useful guideline for using CNTs as a reinforcing phase of materials to make devices to prevent from ballistic penetration or high speed impact.
You might have seen our recent Nanowerk Spotlight on modern military nanotechnology (Military nanotechnology - how worried should we be?) and read about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the U.S. military pours into nanotech research every year. Well, it turns out that metalsmiths in India perhaps as early as 300 AD, and presumably with a much lower budget, developed a new technique known as wootz steel that produced a high-carbon steel of unusually high purity. Wootz, which are small steel ingots, was widely exported and became particularly famous in the Middle East, where it became known as Damascus steel. This steel had extraordinary mechanical properties and an exceptionally sharp cutting edge. The original Damascus steel swords were made possibly as early as 500 AD to as late as 1750 AD. What's so interesting about this? It turns out that the secret of Damascus steel is carbon nanotubes. Recently discovered in the nanostructure of a 17th century Damascus saber, the nanotubes could have encapsulated iron-carbide (cementite) nanowires that might give clues to the mechanical strength and sharpness of these swords.
The electrical properties of CNTs are extremely sensitive to defects which can be introduced during the growth, by mechanical strain, or by irradiation with energetic particles such as electrons, heavy ions, alpha-particles, and protons. When highly energetic particles collide, a latchup, electrical interference, charging, sputtering, erosion, and puncture of the target device can occur. Therefore the information on the effects of various types of high energetic irradiation on CNTs and other nanomaterials will be important in developing radiation-robust devices and circuits of nanomaterials under aerospace environment. As a result, degradation of the device performance and lifetime or even a system failure of the underlying electronics may happen. Researchers in South Korea conducted a systematic study of the effects of proton irradiation on the electrical properties of CNT network field effect transistor (FET) devices showing metallic or semiconducting behaviors. The most important outcome of this work is that no significant change in the electrical properties of CNT-based FET was observed, even after high-energy proton beam irradiated directly on the device. This result show that CNT-based devices can be a promising substitute for classical silicon-based devices, which are known to be very fragile against proton radiations
Back in 2001, Swedish researchers developed techniques for creating complex two- and three-dimensional networks of nanotubes and micrometer-sized containers from liquid crystalline lipid bilayer materials based on the propensity in liposomes to undergo complex shape-transitions under mechanical excitations. The membrane composition and container contents can be controlled allowing chemical programming of networks in studies of enzyme kinetics, reaction-diffusion phenomena, and single-biomolecule detection. Materials contained in the networks can be routed among containers. Thus, networks of nanotubes and vesicles serve as a platform to build nanofluidic devices operating with single molecules and particles and offer new opportunities to study chemistry in confined biomimetic compartments. The networks can furthermore be used to build nanoscale chemical laboratories for applications in analytical devices as well as to construct computational and complex sensor systems that can also be integrated to living cells. In recent work, the researchers have now demonstrated that these nanotube-container networks can be constructed directly from plasma membranes of cultured cells.
Various methods have been developed for growing well-aligned CNTs based on variant alignment mechanisms such as 'overcrowding growth', 'template hindrance growth' and 'electric field induced growth'. Compared to other methods, electric field induced growth has been considered to be a more effective and controllable method for producing well-aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). Interestingly, while the alignment of CNTs became more controllable and repeatable with the assistance of an electric field, it was also shown that for CNTs grown in an electric field, the diameter uniformity and the crystallinity of graphite sheets of CNTs were clearly improved. This led Chinese researchers to develop an electric-field-induced method to not only improve CNT uniformity but also to create a new approach to control the microstructure of CNTs.