Australian Scientists are Cool! (1 Viewer)

gray

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Apr 22, 2003
30,077
#1
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/16/1068917669903.html

Powder with the power to transform the world

In his Canberra laboratory, research physicist Dr Ying Chen churns what looks like nothing more than dull, grey powder. But far more precious than gold, the powder, says Dr Chen, will change the world.

He believes it will open the way for making everything from hydrogen-powered cars and the next generation of jetliners to wafer-thin televisions and powerful computers so small you can slip them into your pocket.

And, he says, the energy-efficient technology will help curb the world's craving for power.

Chen's laboratory at the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering, at the Australian National University, is the world's only commercial source of the extraordinary powder - nanotubes of boron nitride (BN).

Nanotubes are cylinders, just a billionth of a metre wide, that can be assembled to create materials 10 times lighter and 100 times stronger than steel.

Until about five years ago all nanotubes were carbon. Then it was found that with lasers at extremely high temperatures they could also be made in boron nitride. However, the process was expensive, producing just grams at a time.

But Chen's team has won an international race to revolutionise the process, discovering how to make them with technology long used by miners to crush rock. Instead of rock, the ANU "crushes" boron in nitrogen gas.

"We can make kilograms," says Chen, a senior research fellow. "We are leading the world in BN nanotube production."

Australia sells them to researchers in the US, Europe and Japan for $560 a gram. "The price will come down," Chen says. And when it does, the impact will be huge. "There will be lots of applications, including new super-strong composite materials for cars and aeroplanes."

Nanotubes would work like sponge to store hydrogen gas as fuel to run cars. Golf clubs and tennis racquets of nanotubes would be almost unbreakable.

"You could even build nanotube cables between the planets and use [them] as a space elevator," says Chen. Interplanetary voyages would be reduced to cable-car rides.

The team is also working on nanotube devices. IBM has produced a nanotube transistor 500 times smaller than silicon transistors.

"Future computers using nanotube transistors and other devices will be the size of mobile phones, but faster and more powerful [than desk-top models]," says Chen. "Nanotube TVs will be thinner than plasma TVs, and much sharper and brighter."

But with parts 5000 times thinner than a human hair, factory assembly may be tricky. So Chen's team is developing a method to "grow" nanotubes in place, rather than install them.

"We can do this by first generating a vapour containing carbon and a metal catalyst over a silicon wafer, and nanotubes are formed on selected sites," he says.

"It is a new world," says Chen, predicting the nanotechnology revolution - which will see products on the market within several years - will be bigger than the one that followed the invention of semi-conductors.

"Nanotechnology will change our lives."

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I was thinking of studying nanotechnology instead of computer science.

Sounds great! :D
 

Ali

Conditioned
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Jul 15, 2002
15,493
#10
Sounds all good & promising but at US$ 560 a gram I don't think it will be mainstream in a very long time!
Am just picturing the sleek unbreakable machines of the future.
 
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gray

gray

Senior Member
Moderator
Apr 22, 2003
30,077
#11
DaJuve, of course the price will go down plenty, once the process is refined ;)

Until then though, we'll have to do with feeble steel :yuck:

:p
 

Ali

Conditioned
Contributor
Jul 15, 2002
15,493
#12
But refining the process is not easy dude but then again wouldn't it be fantastic to hurl your PC against the wall everytime you loose a match. This by itself makes the wait worthwhile :D
And who pray will create the OS for this monster?
 
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gray

gray

Senior Member
Moderator
Apr 22, 2003
30,077
#13
Anyone but microsoft :groan:

True about throwing ur pc against the wall every time it annoys u :D
 

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