MIT Develops New Technique of Producing Energy With Carbon Nanotubes – ExtremeTech

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Engineers at MIT have found a brand new option to generate electrical energy, and you may thank our outdated buddy, carbon nanotubes. These microscopic tubes of carbon atoms had been the most popular factor in materials science for just a few years, and so they might be making a comeback. By grinding up nanotubes and dipping them in particular solvents, the staff confirmed it’s attainable to generate sufficient present to run vital electrochemical reactions and possibly in the future to energy super-small gadgets. 

In line with MIT chemical engineering engineer Michael Strano, this technique of producing power is totally new. It’s particularly intriguing since you don’t want any exterior wiring. Merely flowing an appropriately electron-poor solvent over the handled nanotubes will generate a present. The research, which seems within the journal Nature Communications, focuses on one software specifically: the oxidation of alcohol into an aldehyde or a ketone. 

This work builds on analysis Strano did in 2010, demonstrating that nanotubes might create “thermopower waves.” That experiment confirmed nanotubes might generate electrical energy when coated with gasoline and hit with warmth pulses. Now, Strano’s staff has discovered that coating one finish of a nanotube with a Teflon-like polymer creates a cost imbalance that helps electrons move from the coated to the uncoated a part of the tube. 

To leverage this property of nanotubes, the staff floor them up into tiny items and turned them right into a form of nanotube paper. One aspect of the sheet had the polymer coating, and the opposite didn’t. Then, they reduce out small chunks measuring 250 micrometers throughout and submerged them in acetonitrile. Certain sufficient, the solvent adheres to the uncoated floor and pulls electrons away from the tubes. 

Tiny Particles Power Chemical Reactions

The particles can type arrays of a number of hundred that match inside a check tube, and every one can generate 0.7 volts of electrical energy. This so-called “packed mattress” reactor was highly effective sufficient to drive alcohol oxidation. Whereas vital in chemical engineering, it’s not normally carried out with electrochemistry as a result of it might require excessive exterior present. That’s not the case with the nanotube particle array. 

Sooner or later, Strano hopes to develop reactors that may construct polymers from uncooked supplies like carbon dioxide. Down the street, this method might even generate energy for nano-scale robots and different gadgets which can be too small for conventional energy mechanisms.

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