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

ing hairs called setae on the animal's front feet use van der Waals adhesion.

"The question is, how does it stick, and, equally important, if the adhesion force is strong enough to hold its weight onto a surface like a wall, then how does it then unstick, or peel, itself to move up a vertical surface"" Strus said.

Nanotubes also have possible medical applications, such as creating more effective bone grafts and biomolecular templates to replace damaged tissues, which requires knowing precisely how the nanotubes adhere to cells.

Yet another potential application is a "nanotweezer" that might use two nanorods to manipulate components for tiny devices and machines.

Raman and Strus plotted how much force it took to peel nanotubes from surfaces, discovering that the tubes lift off in fits and starts instead of smoothly.

"We saw these jumps in peeling forces, where the nanotubes would lift off suddenly and then snag, lift off suddenly and then snag. This behavior has a very deep physical significance and can only be appreciated by means of mathematical models," Raman said.

Pipes and Zalamea, meanwhile, had already been developing theoretical models to describe how the nanotubes would peel away from a surface and from each other. The four researchers then worked together with the others to fine tune the model, which describes the physics of why nanotubes peel off unevenly.

The nanotubes used in the research had a length of about 6 microns, or millionths of a meter, and were 40 nanometers wide, roughly 500 times thinner than a human hair.

The researchers used an atomic force microscope to measure the peeling forces. The nanotube was attached to the end of a diving-board shaped part of the microscope called a microcantilever. As the nanotube was pulled away from a surface, the cantilever bent. This bending movement was tracked with a laser, revealing the forces required to peel the nanotube.

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

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