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The sensitive side of carbon nanotubes: Creating powerful pressure sensors
Date:10/24/2007

the charge moved from one end of the block to the other.

The research team discovered that the strain they applied to the block had a linear relationship with the blocks electrical resistance. The more they squeezed the block, the more its resistance decreased. On a graph, the relationship is represented by a neat, straight line. This means every time one exposes the block to a load of X, they can reliably expect the blocks resistance to decrease by Y.

This reliability and predictability of this relationship makes the carbon nanotube block an ideal material for creating a highly sensitive pressure sensor, Sreekala said.

The pressure sensor would function similarly to a typical weight scale. By placing an object with an unknown weight onto the carbon nanotube block, the block would be squeezed down and its electrical resistance would decrease. The sensor would then send an electrical charge through the nanotube block, and register the resistance. The exact weight of the object could then be easily calculated, thanks to the linear, unchanging relationship between the blocks strain and resistance.

A study published earlier this year (http://news.rpi.edu/update.do"artcenterkey=2217), written by Rensselaer senior research specialist Victor Pushparaj, who is also an author of the pressure sensor paper, showed that carbon nanotubes are able to withstand repeated stress yet retain their structural and mechanical integrity. Electrical resistance decreases as the block is squeezed, as the charged electrons have more pathways to move from one end of the block to the other.

In the new study, Sreekala and the research team found that the nanotube blocks linear strain-resistance relationship holds true until the block is squeezed to 65 percent of its original height. Beyond that, the blocks mechanical properties begin to fail and the linear relationship breaks down.

The team is currently thinking of ways to boost the nanotub
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Contact: Michael Mullaney
mullam@rpi.edu
518-276-6161
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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