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The Leading Rolls


leading rolls

© J. Cambedouzou et P. Launois/LPS

Artist's rendition of a peapod structure as determined by X-ray diffraction.



An exhaustive list of all the nanomaterials currently under research or already present in everyday life would be impossible. But leading them all—and by far—are the famous carbon nanotubes, which were discovered in 1991 and have become the showcase of nanoscience. These nanomaterials take the form of hollow cylinders whose surface is made up of one or several rolled up sheets of carbon. They are distinguished especially by their mechanical properties—they are a hundred times tougher and six times lighter than steel, and can undergo considerable deformation under bending and torsional stress—and by their outstanding electrical conductivity.
The use of carbon nanotubes, already found today in a variety of objects, ranging from tennis rackets to bicycle frames and Formula1 car bodies, “is constantly making new ground, with 7000 publications and 2500 patents throughout the world in 2008,” says Pascale Launois, from the LPS1 in Orsay.
“We are particularly interested in new so-called nanohybrids. These are nanotubes inside which are inserted various molecules to try and alter their mechanical or electronic properties.” The cylindrical cavity of certain nanotubes—those made up of a single wall—can be used to synthesize molecular chains that exist nowhere else. As Launois explains, “peapods, for example, so called because of their resemblance to real peapods, are made up of chains of C60 fullerene2 molecules inside nanotubes. Fullerenes and other molecules that are confined to nanometric scales in this way have novel physical properties. It might be a long way off, but we can already imagine applications for filtration, desalination of sea water, or storage of radioactive waste.”

Notes :

1. Laboratoire de Physique des Solides (CNRS / Université Paris-XI).
2. C60 fullerene contains 60 carbon atoms arranged in a soccer ball-like structure.

Contacts :

Pascale Launois,
launois@lps.u-psud.fr


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