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Making Nanotubes for the Power Grid

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 09:03AM

For you to read this news item requires several things to work and one of the most important of those is that you have power. To get that power to you the electrical grid uses copper to transmit it. While copper is a very good conductor, it will still leak an estimated 5% of the electricity every 100 miles it travels. A potential higher-efficiency replacement is armchair quantum wire, AQW. It is a weave of metallic single-walled carbon nanotubes but these are not easy to make. They are grown with other kinds of nanotubes but then have to be separated out. Needle in a haystack could describe this, but I’m not sure if that expression is applicable to things 50,000 times smaller than a human hair. Fortunately, scientists at Rice University have found a way to grow the length of premade nanotubes, a process called amplification. Ideally they will be able to greatly amplify a batch of nanotubes, harvest the extra length, and amplify the original batch again. This is a step toward AQW for replacing copper in electrical transmission lines, but, as one of the scientists put it, this is “a baby step.”

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