August 19, 2005

New Carbon Strips Could Build Elevator to Space

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Transparent sheets made from minute carbon tubes may have uses ranging from artificial muscles to light-producing displays to electronic sensors to space elevators, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The Texas scientists say the newly developed sheets are stronger than steel sheets of the same weight.

Commercial applications of the sheets may be possible in a short time, according to Ray H. Baughman, a co-author of a paper reporting the development in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

The researchers developed tiny carbon tubes, too small to see with the naked eye, and worked out a system to weave trillions of them into sheets about two inches wide and three feet long.

The sheets are stronger than equivalent steel or mylar, can carry electricity and produce polarized light.

Potential uses, the researchers said, include space applications such as solar sails, electrodes for light emitting diodes for displays, as solar cells to collect light, as bendable artificial muscles, as sources of polarized light, as antennas embedded in car windows and as electronic sensors.

Baughman said other potential uses being explored include structural composites that are strong and tough; batteries, fuel cells and thermal-energy-harvesting cells using nanotube sheet electrodes.

The nanotube sheets were developed by the Texas researchers working with researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia.

The research was funded by the Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Texas Advanced Technology Program, Robert A. Welch Foundation and the Strategic Partnership for Research in Nanotechnology.


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