Nanotechnology is a burgeoning field with potential uses in everything from electronics to medicine. Thanks to the work of John Hart and his team from the University of Michigan, the number of uses for nanomaterials may increase significantly. That’s because they’ve developed a way to create carbon nanotubes in a multitude of hitherto impossible three-dimensional shapes. They call this new technique 'capillary forming.'
Until now, carbon nanotubes have had to be straight and vertical. It has been next to impossible to create anything more complex. Hart and his team solved this problem by capitalizing on capillary action.
Like traditional nanotube manufacturers, they begin by growing nanotubes on silicon wafers. The wafers are then suspended over acetone, which condenses over the tiny structures and then evaporates. The capillary action of the liquid manipulates the entire structure into intricate new shapes. These shapes can be controlled by the starting shape of the nanotubes prior to the addition of the acetone.
Twisting spires are one of the 3-D shapes researchers at the University of Michigan were able to develop using a new manufacturing process.Credit: A. John Hart.