Tuesday, March 14, 2006


“Researchers have long been interested in making composites of nanotubes and polymers, but it can be difficult to engineer the interfaces between the two materials,” says Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “We have found a way to get arrays of nanotubes into a soft polymer matrix without disturbing the shape, size, or alignment of the nanotubes.”

Nanotube arrays typically don’t maintain their shape when transferred because they are held together by weak forces. But the team has developed a new procedure that allows them to grow an array of nanotubes on a separate platform and then fill the array with a soft polymer. When the polymer hardens, it is essentially peeled back from the platform, leaving a flexible skin with organized arrays of nanotubes embedded throughout.

The skins can be bent, flexed, and rolled up like a scroll, all while maintaining their ability to conduct electricity, which makes them ideal materials for electronic paper and other flexible electronics, according to Ajayan.

From this press release from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

P.M. Ajayan is the leader of the group that reported this exciting development, which has the potential to lead to technological innovations based on the 'nanoskin', a thin, flexible and conducting sheet of polymer with carbon nanotubes embedded in it. He has been at the forefront of major developments in carbon nanotubes research right from their dicovery in Japan's NEC (where he was a post-doctoral researcher) in 1991-92.

A partial list of Ajayan's publications can be found here; there is an earlier report on the development of a nano-brush, with some cute applications, such as cleaning microscopic grooves! You may also be interested in this 2002 interview [pdf] with him .

Ajayan was the topper of his B.Tech. class in metallurgical engineering at the Institute of Technology in Banaras Hindu University. I too was in that class.

[I thanks to another classmate of mine, H. Kumar, for the e-mail alert].