Number 120 (Story #2), March 26, 1993 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein|
CARBON BUCKYTUBES are nanoscopic in width but potentially macroscopic in length. Richard Smalley of Rice University said at the APS meeting that he had tapered to a thin point one of the two graphite electrodes used in making fullerenes (in an electric arc) and that he hoped to use this configuration to make nanotubes with lengths of centimeters or more. Such tubes would be stronger than any other known fiber, according to Smalley, and because of its nm diameter would be invisible to the eye (besides which you would cut your hand trying to hold one). Actually the nanotubes produced so far (only microns in length) usually appear not singly but in bundles and groups of bundles in a tendon-like hierarchy. The tubes can also be concentric and can be used as containers for lead atoms (which, squeezed into a line only a few atoms abreast, constitute the world's thinnest wire); these discoveries were reported in January by scientists at NEC Corporation in Japan. Thomas Ebbeson of NEC said at the APS meeting that his colleagues were now also studying other metals in addition to lead, and that carbon nanotubes may be useful for studying one-dimensional chemistry.