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New Study Shows Nanotubes Have Foam-Like Properties, Flexing and Rebounding with Great Compressibility

Study results published at the end of November by a research team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute show that carbon nanotubes can act like ‚Äúsuper compressible‚ÄĚ springs, which can flex and rebound in response to force.

Dr. Anyuan Cao, a lead researcher on the study who is now Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, tells NWN, “This‚Ķpaper reported our work on the discovery of one of the fascinating mechanical properties of a thin film consisting of huge number of nanotubes aligned like trees in a forest — that they can be repeated compressed yet straighten back, acting as numerous tiny springs, for thousands of cycles without losing much strength.”

Dr. Cao explains to NWN, “A single nanotube is too small and bows as an arc if you compress it from its two ends. But with our aligned nanotube forest, the experiments can be done easily in a conventional testing machine, and in one time we can create numerous nano-springs.”

carbon nanotubes under compression Carbon Nanotubes Under Compression

Carbon nanotubes that can be created into foam-like structures have numerous market applications, including “flexible electrical interconnects and cables, energy absorbing coatings, particularly for microelectromechanical system packages and also perhaps mechanical sensors,” according to Dr. Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Cao adds, “Such a resilient system combined with both high compressibility and strength will be very useful in making cushioning pads and impact resistant coatings.”

Throughout the time of the research conducted by Dr. Ajayan, Dr. Cao, and their team, the CNT foams did not tear, fracture, or collapse, even after thousands of cycles. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute “has filed invention disclosures, and we have also been talking to possible startups to adapt this carbon nanotube technology IP,” said Dr. Ajayan.

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