Feeds

MIT team sketches nanotubes with special pencil

This should put the lead in

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Researchers from MIT have demonstrated a technique that allows them to draw a line of carbon nanotubes – with a mechanical pencil.

Their aim is to develop a production technique for nanotube-based sensors for detecting hazardous chemicals in the environment. Nanotubes are good at this, but expensive and difficult to produce.

Colour me carbon: MIT's nanotube pencil. Source: MIT

So why not just draw them on paper? That’s just what the MIT boffins have achieved: the graphite in the pencil is replaced with a rod made of a compressed powder of nanotubes. In a normal mechanical pencil, this can draw sensors onto any surface.

The particular sensor the MIT researchers demonstrated detects minute traces of ammonia gas in the air, but team leader Timothy Swager says the sensors can be modified to detect “nearly any” type of gas: “we can start doing all sorts of chemically specific functionalized materials … we think we can make sensors for almost anything that’s volatile”.

Getting the carbon to act as a sensor is surprisingly easy: gold electrodes are imprinted into the paper, allowing a current to pass through the carbon. If a gas binds to the nanotubes, the resistance – and therefore the current – changes.

Swager says that as well as being cheap, the nanotube pencil is very stable, and he says it’s delivering highly reproducible results. By altering the carbon – for example, adding metal atoms to the nanotubes – they can be made sensitive to different materials. A material that senses ethylene could monitor fruit ripening in transit, while sulphur compounds indicate gas links.

The MIT’s release, complete with video, is here. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.