August 10, 2009
Carbon nanotubes - tiny, rolled-up tubes of graphite - promise to add speed to electronic circuits and strength to materials like carbon composites, used in airplanes and racecars. A major problem, however, is that the metals used to grow nanotubes react unfavorably with materials found in circuits and composites. But now, researchers at MIT have for the first time shown that nanotubes can grow without a metal catalyst. The researchers demonstrate that zirconium oxide, the same compound found in cubic zirconia "fake diamonds," can also grow nanotubes, but without the unwanted side effects of metal.