Nanotechnology Materials                      

Nanotechnology can change the properties of many materials. This ranges from increasing the strength of materials to increasing the reactivity of materials.

Increasing the Strength of Materials

Researchers at MIT have developed a method  to add carbon nanotubes aligned perpendicular to the carbon fibers, called nanostiching. They believe that having the nanotubes perpendicular to the carbon fibers help hold the fibers together, rather than depending upon epoxy, and significanly improve the properties of the composite.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that adding graphene to epoxy composites may result in stronger/stiffer components than epoxy composites using a similar weight of carbon nanotubes. Graphene appears to bond better to the polymers in the epoxy, allowing a more effective coupling of the graphene into the structure of the composite. This property could result in the manufacture of components with higher strength-to-weight ratios for such uses as windmill blades or aircraft components.

Researchers at North Carolina University have shown how to make magnesium alloy stronger. They introduced nano-spaced stacking faults in the crystalline structure of the alloy. The stacking faults prevent defects in the structure of the alloy from spreading, making the alloy stronger. The researchers believe that the techniques they used to strenghten the alloy can be implemented in existing plants, allowing a fast implementation.

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Producing better Catalysts

Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated the use of a two-dimensional bismuth catalyst to convert carbon dioxide to formic acid. The researchers believe the technique could also be used to convert carbon dioxide to produce products such as acetic acid, ethanol or propanol fuels.

A catalyst using platinum-cobalt nanoparticles is being developed for fuel cells that produces twelve times more catalytic activity than pure platinum. In order to achieve this performance, researchers anneal nanoparticles to form them into a crystalline lattice, reducing the spacing between platinum atoms on the surface and increasing their reactivity.

Using pellets containing nanostructured palladium and gold as a catalyst to breakdown chlorinated compounds contaminating groundwater. Since palladium is very expensive the researchers formed the pellets of nanoparticles that allow almost every atom of palladium to react with the chlorinated compounds, reducing the cost of the treatment.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have demonstrated a catalyst made from nitrogen-doped carbon-nanotubes, instead of platinum. The researchers believe this type of catalyst could be used in Lithium-air batteries, which can store up to 10 times as much energy as lithium-ion batteries.

Using a nanocatalyst containing cobalt and platinum to remove nitrogen oxide from smokestacks

Producing Better Electrodes for Batteries

Researchers at USC are developing a lithium ion battery that can recharge within 10 minutes using silicon nanoparticles in the anode of the battery. The use of silicon nanoparticles, rather than solid silicon, prevents the cracking of the electrode which occurs in solid silicon electrodes.

Researchers have used nanoparticles called nanotetrapods studded with nanoparticles of carbon to develop low cost electrodes for fuel cells. This electrode may be able to replace the expensive platinum needed for fuel cell catalysts.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have demonstrated the use of silicon coated carbon nanotubes in anodes for Li-ion batteries. They are predicting that the use of silicon can increase the capacity of Li-ion batteries by up to 10 times. However silicon expands during a batteries discharge cycle, which can damage silicon based anodes. By depositing silicon on nanotubes aligned parallel to each other the researchers hope to prevent damage to the anode when the silicon expands.

Improving Corrosion Resistance

Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated that atomically thin sheets of boron nitride can be used as a coating to prevent oxidation. They believe this coating could be used for coating parts that need to be light weight, but work in harsh environments, such as jet engines.

Molecular Manufacturing

By building an object atom by atom or molecule by molecule, molecular manufacturing, also called molecular nanotechnology, can produce new materials with improved performance over existing materials. For example, an airplane strut must be very strong, but also lightweight. A molecular fabricator could build the strut atom by atom out of carbon, making a lightweight material that is stronger than a diamond. Remember that a diamond is merely a lattice of carbon atoms held together by bonds between the atoms. By placing carbon atoms, one after the other, in the shape of the strut, such a fabricator could create a diamond-like material that is lightweight and stronger than any metal.

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