Physicists at Boston College have for the first time shown that carbon nanotubes can be stretched at high temperature to nearly four times their original length, a finding that could have implications for the development of new nanocomposites.
At normal temperatures, carbon nanotubes snap when stretched to about 1.15 times their original length. But in a paper published in the Jan. 19, 2006, issue of the journal Nature, a team of physicists led by Boston College Research Associate Professor Jianyu Huang showed that at high temperatures nanotubes become extremely ductile. When heated to more than 2,000 degrees Celsius, one was stretched from 24 nanometres to 91 nanometres in length before it snapped.
The elongation was done by applying an electric current to the nanotube, which created a high temperature within the tiny structure and enabled the scientists to pull it. Huang and his colleagues said their research indicates that nanotubes may be useful in strengthening ceramics and other nanocomposites at high temperatures.
Huang credited Boston College PhD student Shuo Chen with devising a special microscopic probe that allowed researchers to grab one end of the nanotube and stretch it while an electric current flowed through it.
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