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Smaller is better in the viscous zone
Date:10/21/2010

hey described in the paper apply to all catalyst-driven processes.

Liu proved Curtarolo's hypothesis by developing a novel method for measuring not only the lengths of growing carbon nanotubes, but also their diameters. Nanotubes are microscopic "mesh-like" tubular structures that are used in hundreds of products, such as textiles, solar cells, transistors, pollution filters and body armor.

"Normally, nanotubes grow from a flat surface in an unorganized manner and look like a plate of spaghetti, so it is impossible to measure any individual tube," Liu said. "We were able to grow them in individual parallel strands, which permitted us to measure the rate of growth as well as the length of growth."

By growing these nanotubes using different catalyst particle sizes and at different temperatures, Liu was able to determine the "sweet spot" at which the nanotubes grew the fastest and longest. As it turned out, this happened when the particle was in its viscous state, and that smaller was better than larger, exactly as predicted before.

These measurements provided the experimental underpinning of Curtarolo's hypothesis that given a particular temperature, smaller nanoparticles are more effective and efficient per unit area than larger catalysts of the same type when they reside in that dimension between solid and liquid.

"Typically, in this field the experimental results come first, and the explanation comes later," Liu said. "In this case, which is unusual, we took the hypothesis and were able to develop a method to prove it correct in the laboratory."


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Contact: Richard Merritt
richard.merritt@duke.edu
919-660-8414
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert  

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