DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University chemists have found a way to grow long, straight cylinders only a few atoms thick in very large numbers, removing a major roadblock in the pursuit of nano-scale electronics.
These single-walled carbon nanotubes also follow parallel paths as they grow so they don't cross each other to potentially impede electronic performance, said Duke associate chemistry professor Jie Liu, who leads the research. Carbon nanotubes can act as semiconductors and could thus further scale-down circuitry to features measuring only billionths of a meter.
Liu's team directed swarms of nanotubes to extend in the same direction by using the crystal structure of a quartz surface as a template. The availability of forests of identical nanotubes would allow future nanoengineers to bundle them onto multiple ultra-tiny chips that could operate with enough power and speed for nanoprocessing.
"It's quite an exciting development," said Liu, who has received a patent on the process. "Compared with what other people have done, we have reached a higher density of nanotubes. Wherever you look through the microscope there are nanotubes. And they are much better aligned and grow very straight."
Liu and two coauthors, postdoctoral fellow Lei Ding and graduate student Dongning Yuan, described their accomplishment April 16 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). Ding was the study's first author. Their research was funded by the United States Naval Research Laboratory and by Duke.
Nanotubes have been a focus of research since the 1990s because of their exceptional lightness and strength and their potential to function in a new kind of electronics as either semiconductors or metals -- depending on their individual architectures.
Sized so small they can be viewed only with scanning electron or atomic force microscopes, carbon nanotubes could usher the electronics industry into an even-smaller scale of
|Contact: Monte Basgall|