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Surprising Science

Nanotechnology: The Future of Electricity

An improved process for making large amounts of pure metallic carbon nanotubes could hold the key to overhauling the electrical power grid with more efficient transmission lines.

What’s the Latest Development?

An improved process for making large amounts of carbon nanotubes may allow a group of researchers at Rice University to make a new, highly efficient electricity grid this summer. Currently, the best production methods result in a mixture of different nanotubes, with varying dimensions and wildly different electrical properties. “Called ‘amplification,’ the new process should eventually allow the researchers to turn a nanogram of pure carbon nanotubes into a gram, then a kilogram, then a ton.” Carbon nanotubes seen as crucial to developing a renewable energy grid.  

What’s the Big Idea?

Nanotechnology is poised to revolutionize nearly every engineering sector, enabling humans to control events at microscopic levels never before thought possible. “Andrew Barron is part of a group at Rice that wants to make something very large from these nanotubes: miles and miles of highly conductive electrical transmission lines for a more efficient energy grid, which will be important as the use of renewable energy grows.” While Rice continues to research ‘amplification’, other methods are being developed which will require scaling production to become cost effective. 


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