Mass Producing Carbon Nanofibers with Airbrushes
For many people, the only connection between an airbrush and technology is the tool in an image editor. For future technologies though, airbrushes me have been used in their manufacturer. Researchers at North Carolina State University have found a way to grow forests of carbon nanofibers with the help of an airbrush.
A common tool for growing carbon nanofibers are nickel nanoparticles, which act as a catalyst. What the North Carolina researchers have developed is the method by which to spray the nanoparticles onto a metal substrate, so that the nanofibers will grow. First the nickel is applied in a fairly uniform coating, thanks to the airbrush, and then silicon powder is applied to the substrate with another airbrush. Now the airbrushed substrate is placed in a chemical reactor with acetylene and ammonia gas, and the whole thing is heated to 600 ºC. This results in the carbon nanofibers growing under the nickel nanoparticles, perpendicular to the substrate.
So far the researchers have tested this method with aluminum, copper, and titanium substrates, and as these are all metals, the interface between them and the nanofibers is highly conductive. This, along with the ability to airbrush large areas at room temperature, could make this technique very valuable for manufacturing devices that can benefit from carbon nanofibers, such as sensors and batteries.
Source: North Carolina State University