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'Sticky nanotubes' hold key to future technologies
Date:4/28/2008

billion times less energy than that required to lift a cup of coffee. That peeling energy is proportional to the nanotube's "interfacial energy," which is one measure of how sticky something is, Strus said.

"This whole idea of measuring the stickiness of something is a standard material test in industry," he said. "There are certain tests that you need to have for measuring strength, toughness and adhesion."

But until now, no such test had been completed to successfully measure and quantify these forces on the nanoscale.

Nanotubes offer promise to produce a new class of composite materials that are stronger than conventional composites for use in aircraft and vehicles.

"This is a big area of research primarily because the strength of nanotubes can be much greater than that of carbon nanofibers," Raman said.

However, properly integrating high-strength nanotubes into polymers for composite materials requires a knowledge of how the nanotubes stick to polymers and to each other.

"One of the big areas in composites, in general, and nanocomposites, in particular, is how to coat a fiber with a material that makes it stick better to the matrix," Raman said. "So it's really important to know how to judge which coatings work best for specific types of fibers. For larger fibers, industry knows which coatings work best, but such knowledge is scarce for nanoscale fibers. It's all about how to make nanotubes 'sticky' to the surrounding matrix."

Nanotubes also must be dispersed uniformly in a solution before being mixed with the polymer to make composite materials, but the tiny rods tend to clump together. Learning precisely how the tubes adhere to each other could lead to a method for dispersing them.

The findings also promise to help researchers understand how geckos are able to stick to surfaces, a trait that could translate into practical uses for industrial and military applications.

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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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