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Boron nitride nanotubes are anything but boring, according to Rice University scientists who have found a way to watch how they move in liquids.

The researchers' method to study the real-time dynamics of (BNNTs) allowed them to confirm, for the first time, that Brownian motion of BNNTs in solution matches predictions and that, like nanotubes of comparable sizes, they remain rigid.

Those properties and others—BNNTs are nearly transparent to , resist oxidation, are stable semiconductors and are excellent conductors of heat—could make them useful as building blocks for or in biomedical studies, among other applications. The study will help scientists better understand particle behavior in the likes of liquid crystals, gels and polymer networks.

Rice scientists Matteo Pasquali and Angel Martí and graduate student and lead author Ashleigh Smith McWilliams isolated single BNNTs by combining them with a fluorescent rhodamine surfactant.

This allowed the researchers to show their Brownian motion—the random way particles move in a fluid, like dust in air—is the same as for carbon nanotubes, and thus they will behave in a similar way in fluid flows. That means BNNTs can be used in liquid-phase processing for the large-scale production of films, fibers and composites.

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Category: Science