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NIST scientists address 'wrinkles' in transparent film development
Date:4/1/2010

A closer look at a promising nanotube coating that might one day improve solar cells has turned up a few unexpected wrinkles, according to new research* conducted at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and North Dakota State University (NDSU)research that also may help scientists iron out a solution.

The scientists have found that coatings made of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) are not quite as deformable as hoped, implying that they are not an easy answer to problems that other materials present. Though films made of nanotubes possess many desirable properties, the team's findings reveal some issues that might need to be addressed before the full potential of these coatings is realized.

"The irony of these nanotube coatings is that they can change when they bend," says Erik Hobbie, now the director of the Materials and Nanotechnology program at NDSU. "Under modest strains, these films can develop irreversible changes in nanotube arrangement that reduce their conductivity. Our work is the first to suggest this, and it opens up new approaches to engineering the films in ways that minimize these effects."

High on the wish list of the solar power industry is a cheap, flexible, transparent coating that can conduct electricity. If this combination of properties can somehow be realized in a single material, solar cells might become far less expensive, and manufacturers might be able to put them in unexpected placessuch as articles of clothing. Transparent conductive coatings can be made of indium-tin oxide, but their rigidity and high cost make them less practical for widespread use.

Carbon nanotubes are one possible solution. Nanotubes, which resemble microscopic rolls of chicken wire, are inexpensive, easy to produce, and can be formed en masse into transparent conductive coatings whose weblike inner structure makes them not only strong but deformable, like paper or fabric. However, the team's res
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Contact: Chad Boutin
boutin@nist.gov
301-975-4261
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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