We've been impressed in the past by aerogel, a lattice-like solid that's almost entirely made of air but can support weight and also has tremendous insulating properties. Then last year an ultralight metal caught our eye, weighing in at 99.99 percent air, which leaves 0.01 percent solid.
Now we are excited to meet aerographite, a sponge grown of carbon nanotubes that's the least dense solid ever: a cubic centimeter of it weighs just two ten-thousandths of a gram.
Wiretapping an enzyme and listening as it unfolds could shed new light on the way proteins work, allowing researchers to monitor structural changes over a longer period of time than was previously possible. To do it, scientists tethered a nanoscale transistor to a molecule found in human tears.
A new stretchy, supple synthetic skin prototype developed at Stanford has some impressive pressure sensitivity, deforming and contorting without any breakage or wrinkling. It’s made of spray-on carbon nanotubes, which act as springs and can measure the force being applied to them.
New nanotube “microworms” could lead to new types of embeddable biological sensors or drug-delivery systems, according to researchers in Boston. The tubes’ length keeps them well anchored in the body, where they can monitor chemical conditions or slowly leak medicine into targeted areas.
Researchers at MIT and Northeastern University developed the nanotubes, which are made of a porous membrane and can be filled with various materials.
Johnny Cash can't have known about carbon nanotubes when he sang about that burning ring of fire, but MIT scientists have shown how the tiny tubes can channel a ring of heat that creates electrical current -- about 100 times as much energy per unit of weight when compared with a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.
A computer chip using nanotube circuitry can run much faster than a regular silicon chip, for a fraction of the cost, but no one has been able to effectively string together two nanotube transistors, let alone the thousands needed for a chip. Until now: researchers at Stanford University have built the first nanotube circuits, by stamping multiple layers of nanotubes on top of one another.
Most shoppers probably don't even bother recycling their plastic bags at the local supermarket, but maybe this development will titillate the geek inside everyone. A chemist has created an "upcycling" method of turning the disposable bags into carbon nanotubes, according to New Scientist
For a few years now, we’ve been excited about the possibility of a cable-based space elevator as an alternative to expensive rocket launchers. To date, though, the various attempts to make it happen–including annual contests and Japan’s recent initiative–have come up short. The problem? Space elevators have one major hang-up: most designs call for braided cords of extremely strong nanotubes, which unfortunately don't exist yet.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.