Nanotube ‘fuse’ generates power

Published in Chemistry World, 10 Mar 2010

A fundamentally new type of power generation may be on the horizon thanks to researchers in the US and Korea who have created a nanotube ‘fuse’ that harnesses the energy from chemical reactions. The device converts chemical energy into electrical energy, yet is so small compared with traditional batteries that it opens the door to applications such as floating sensors or new fuel cells.

Carbon nanotubes are known to have unusually high thermal conductivity because of a streamlined way in which packets of heat energy, known as phonons, can travel through the structures. Recent theory shows that if the average distance between phonon collisions matches the physical size of an external exothermic reaction, the phonons should be able to create an accelerating ‘reaction wave’ that quickly spreads down the nanotube. […]

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