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Scientists find new way to slice nanotubes

STANFORD, Calif., April 20 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've developed a new technology designed to more efficiently and accurately create large quantities of uniform nanoribbons.

A team of researchers at Stanford University led by Professor Hongjie Dai says it has developed a method that will allow relatively precise production of mass quantities of the tiny ribbons by slicing open carbon nanotubes.

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The scientists said it is relatively easy to produce fairly uniform carbon nanotubes in large numbers, but slicing open the nanotubes requires a special process to be able to open them without destroying the whole structure.

In Dai's method, carbon nanotubes are placed on a substrate and then coated with a polymer film. The film covers the entire surface of each nanotube, except a thin strip where the nanotube is in contact with the substrate. The film is then peeled off from the substrate, taking along all the nanotubes and exposing the thin strip of polymer-free surface on each of them. A chemical etching process using plasma can then slice open each nanotube along that narrow strip.

"Once we overcame the hurdle of how to unzip the nanotubes, everything seemed so obvious," Dai said. "It is one of those things where you go, 'Why didn't I think of that earlier?' "

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The work is detailed in the April 16 issue of the journal Nature.

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