Armchair quantum wire (AQW) is a weaved metallic carbon nanotubes that seems like a perfect solution for saving the wasted electricity in the usual electricity cables used nowadays. The AQW can transfer electricity with nearly no waste at all.
Till now the manufacture of those nanotubes has exposed to some difficulties. But the new discovery have overcame these difficulties and made it possible to manufacture the huge amount needed to change the used cables to the new nanotubes cables.
Chemist Andrew R. Barron, graduate student Alvin Orbaek and undergraduate student Andrew Barrons from the Rice University are trying to complete the work of their late professor Richard Smalley who is a Noble prize winner and a nanotechnology pioneer.
Armchair quantum wire gets its name from the metallic single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCN) of which it is made. These SWCNs are dubbed armchairs due to their unique shape, and while they are great at carrying current, they can’t yet be made on their own. They are currently grown in batches with other kinds of nanotubes and have to be separated out – not an easy task given that a human hair is 50,000 times larger than a single nanotube.
Working towards this ultimate goal, the team has found a way to take small batches of individual nanotubes and make them dramatically longer. They say that ideally, long armchair nanotubes could be cut, re-seeded with catalyst and re-grown indefinitely, potentially making the development of a cable that will make an efficient electric grid of the future possible.
The technique involves chemically attaching an iron/cobalt catalyst to the ends of nanotubes and then fine-tuning the temperature and environment in which amplification could occur. Barron says refining the process has taken years but the researchers’ efforts are now paying off with up to 90 percent of the nanotubes in a batch now able to be amplified to significant lengths. They say that, although the latest experiments focused on SWCNs of various chiralities (ie. they lack an internal plane of symmetry), they feel the results would be as great, and probably even better, with a batch of pristine armchairs.