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An improved process for making large amounts of pure metallic carbon nanotubes could hold the key to overhauling the electrical power grid with more efficient transmission lines.

Researchers at Rice University plan to generate a large quantity of this material by the end of summer. They'll use these nanotubes to make long and highly conductive fibers that could be woven into more efficient electrical transmission lines.

There are a few different classes of carbon nanotube, each with slightly different properties and different potential uses. Unfortunately, existing production methods result in a mixture of different nanotubes, with varying dimensions and wildly different electrical properties. Purely semiconducting nanotubes, useful for future integrated circuits, are in the mix with metallic nanotubes that could be used to make highly conductive wires. So nanotubes have to be separated by type, a slow and expensive process, says Andrew Barron, professor of chemistry and materials science at Rice.

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Category: Science