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Published on Jan 11, 2018
The terms "handmade" and "high tech" are not commonly found in the same sentence, but they both apply to a Rice University method to quickly produce fibers from microscopic carbon nanotubes. The method developed by the Rice lab of chemist Matteo Pasquali allows researchers to make short lengths of strong, conductive fibers from bulk nanotubes in about an hour. The work complements Pasquali's pioneering 2013 method to spin full spools of thread-like nanotube fibers for aerospace, automotive, medical and smart-clothing applications. The fibers look like cotton thread but perform like metal wires and carbon fibers. It can take weeks to prepare nanotubes to make long fibers, but the new method cuts that down to size, even if it does require a bit of hands-on processing. Pasquali and lead author and graduate student Robby Headrick reported in Advanced Materials that aligning and twisting the hair-like fibers is fairly simple.