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The right recipe: Engineering research improves laser detectors, batteries
Date:2/6/2012

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Think of it as cooking with carbon spaghetti: A Kansas State University researcher is developing new ways to create and work with carbon nanotubes -- ultrasmall tubes that look like pieces of spaghetti or string.

These carbon nanotubes -- made of graphene, an atom-thick sheet of carbon -- have the perfect ingredients for improving laser detectors and rechargeable batteries, according to research by Gurpreet Singh, assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering. Singh is working on several projects with carbon nanotubes and polymer-derived ceramic material.

One project involves new ways to cook or create a ceramic carbon nanotube material. The conventional way to make this type of material is to take a liquid polymer, pour it into a mold and heat it in an oven until the polymer forms a ceramic.

Singh's team tried a new approach. They are among the first to create their own modified liquid polymer with four ingredients: silicon, boron, carbon and nitrogen. But rather than heating this liquid polymer in an oven, they heated it in a conventional microwave -- the kind used in kitchens. They found that the microwave heats the nanotubes just as well as an oven.

"What we did is reduce the time to construct ceramic," Singh said. "If you use an oven or heater, you have to heat it for awhile. With the microwave, it is fast heating within a few minutes."

Their work -- co-authored with their university colleague William Kuhn, professor of electrical and computer engineering -- recently appeared in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, published by the American Chemical Society. Another publication involving conventional processing will appear in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

Once this ceramic carbon nanotube material is created, it has multiple applications. Singh's team is involved in a project with the Laser Radiometry Team at the National Institute of
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Contact: Gurpreet Singh
gurpreet@k-state.edu
785-532-7085
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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