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Clemson scientists put a (nano) spring in their step
Date:8/13/2008

CLEMSON Electronic devices get smaller and more complex every year. It turns out that fragility is the price for miniaturization, especially when it comes to small devices, such as cell phones, hitting the floor. Wouldn't it be great if they bounced instead of cracked when dropped?

A team of Clemson University researchers, led by Apparao Rao, professor of physics, has invented a way to make beds of tiny, shock-absorbing carbon springs which possibly could be used to protect delicate objects from damaging impacts. With collaborators at the University of California at San Diego, the team has shown that layers of these tiny springs called coiled carbon nanotubes, each a thousand times smaller than a human hair, can act as extremely resilient shock absorbers.

Similar coiled carbon nanotubes have been made before, yet Clemson researchers say this method is unique since beds of coiled carbon nanotubes can be grown in a single step using a proprietary hydrocarbon-catalyst mixture.

The group also envisions coiled nanotubes in soldiers' body armor, car bumpers and bushings and even as cushioning elements in shoe soles.

"The problem we have faced in the past is producing enough of these coiled carbon nanotubes at a reasonable cost to make a difference," said Rao. "Because our current method produces coiled nanotubes quickly in high yield, it can be readily scaled up to industrial levels. After formation, the coiled nanotubes can be peeled off in one piece and placed on other surfaces to form instant cushioning coatings."

In earlier studies, Rao and his team, along with UCSD collaborators, tested more conventional straight carbon nanotubes against coil-shaped nanotubes. When a stainless steel ball was dropped onto a single nanotube layer, the coiled nanotubes completely recovered from the impact, while the straight ones did not.

"It's like an egg toss," said Rao. "If you move your hand backward as you catch the egg a
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Contact: Apparao Rao
arao@clemson.edu
864-656-6758
Clemson University
Source:Eurekalert

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