Enrique Barrera, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Rice University, has recently proven the viability of substituting carbon nanotubes for metals used in electrical cables. The carbon nanotube cable can conduct the same amount of electricity as a metal cable weighing six times as much, and will be a boon for transportation – think of the weight savings in airplanes and automobiles.

Professor Barrera and doctorate student Yao Zhao created a rig using a spun fiber of carbon nanotube to replace some wiring in a circuit to light up a common lightbulb. The nanotube wire was doped with iodine to increase conductivity, and it was found that even two tubes tied together did not alter or reduce their ability to conduct electricity.

Surprisingly, the thin nanotube fiber was able to handle standard household current for days on end without any signs of performance degradation. The specific conductivity of the carbon nanotube fiber has been found to be higher than both copper and silver and is second only to sodium in terms of conductivity-to-weight ratio.

The carbon nanotube fiber was created by Chinese research partner, Tsinghua University, by spinning billions of nanotubes together to form a short piece of cable a few centimeters in length. The next step for Professor Barrera is to create longer and thicker nanotube cable capable of handling industrial type power transmission.

The research is supported by a partnership called “Secure Energy for America” and has received funding from the Department of Energy and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Video after the jump.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJw6JmZmdqE&w=500&h=314]

Source: Futurity.org

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