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¡ôNanotubes: Display element of next generation
Carbon nanotubes were discovered by electron microscopist Sumio Lijima at NEC Corp. In Japan in 1991, when he was investigating the residue deposited during a process that synthesized fullerenes(a molecular form of pure carbon noted for its cage like structures).
They¡¯re microscopic tubes made of a remarkable form of soot and have chemical properties that make them stronger than steel and lighter than plastic. They consist of concentric shells of graphite, with each shell rolled into a cylinder so the lattice of carbon atoms remains continuous. Nanotubes are stronger than metal because the chemical bond holding them together is stronger.
But nanotubes have other qualities that are whetting the appetites of engineers: They¡¯re excellent conductors of electricity and heat, and they can be used as wires, semiconductors or superconductors. They can also emit electrons, so they can be used in ultrathin display screens.
Such attributes have scientists like Shaoli Fang, a vice president at CarboLex Inc.in Lexington, Ky., convinced that nanotechnology will be used in monitors within five years.
The reason, Fang says, is simple: Carbone nanotubes have a very low field-emission voltage is needed to emit the electrons that produce an image.
Nanotube monitors will be so svelte, they will be hung like posters, according to Fang. And Samsung Electronics Co. in Korea, which has demonstrated a display screen in which electors are fired at the screen from nanotubes , estimates that it¡¯s just two years away from bringing nanotube screens to market.
Nanotubes could also have many other uses. Extremely mall electrical wires could make use of nanotubes¡¯ electricity and heat-conducting capabilities to make computer circuits smaller and faster .They also have the highest and most stable electron emissions rate recorded, researchers say.
Many engineers see nanotubes as an alternative to silicon, the medium in which transistors, diodes and other semiconductor device structures are usually built today.
But even if the technological properties are extremely good, the introduction of nanotubes will be slow because of cost and other factors. Nanotubes are creating in university physics departments and at places like IBM. Currently , nanotubes cost $100 per gram.
Nanotubes may be introduced commercially in the next few years¡ªfirst in niche applications and then perhaps in devices where silicon and nanotubes are mixed.
Carbon nanotubes carry an extremely high current and carry it with such extremely resistance, it¡¯s possible they carry current as well as it can be carried- at its quantum limit. Nanotubes can carry about 100 times the current that would destroy an ordinary electronic interconnector.
The technology will be put into practice by NASA., where researchers are exploring the possibility of using nanotubes to make a space elevator, something like the 23,000-mile-satellite-to-Earth cable Arthur C. Clarke envisioned more than two decades ago.
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