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NASA Wins Nanotechnology Award

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the good-show dept.

NASA 36

Roland Piquepaille writes "NASA is rarely associated with nanotechnologies. But one of its researchers working at the NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center just received a Nanotech Briefs Nano 50 award for a manufacturing process for high-quality carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Because of its ability to produce bundles of CNTs without using a metal catalyst, this method is simpler, safer, and cheaper than current ones. The CNTs produced by this process are also purer and well suited for medical applications."

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36 comments

How long until someone whines.... (0, Redundant)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#21390257)

<sarcasm>NASA is a waste of money!</sarcasm>

Re:How long until someone whines.... (5, Interesting)

bxwatso (1059160) | more than 6 years ago | (#21390419)

NASA does waste money. IMO, the manned space program has been a complete waste of money since the last Moon shot. NASA as a whole, however, has some bright spots.

This reminds me of IBM, which in the 80's was a huge, bloated, money wasting pig. Despite this, they generated more patents and innovations than any other company on earth (ex: they invented the relational database, but Ellison made a fortune on it). Like Xerox, they rarely turned their innovations into valuable products.

I think that a hugely well funded organization with no purpose (Parc, Watson Labs, NASA) provides niches for innovators to spread their wings. That is, until marketing gets involved.

Re:How long until someone whines.... (0, Troll)

philpalm (952191) | more than 6 years ago | (#21390521)

Quote:"NASA does waste money. IMO, the manned space program has been a complete waste of money since the last Moon shot. NASA as a whole, however, has some bright spots." You should have wrote almost a complete waste...I think the bright spots start to eclipse your observation in that I think the Space shuttle program was money also well spent, except for the salary for whoever approved the space shuttle launch of Challenger. Did you know that NASA stands for "need another seven astronauts?"

Re:How long until someone whines.... (3, Interesting)

Fission86 (1070784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21390753)

the problem with nasa is that it IS a government run institution, which means that politicians have a decently sized say in how it's run.

now this wouldn't be a problem if politicians were well educated or atleast made an effort to learn about a program before saying "let's take in a new direction," but they're not, they're dumb as hell and love to change things at the first sign of trouble.

of course this might just go straight back to john q. taxpayer, who isn't very smart either and doesn't understand what CNTs are and doesn't see NASA being worth the "DoD sized" budget that they think NASA has http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1000/1 [thespacereview.com] , but john q. taxpayer understands "nasa goes to moon again" as something tangible and worth while. while i won't argue against it being tangible or worth while, it definitely isn't the best way to spend the limited amount of time/money that nasa is given

Re:How long until someone whines.... (1)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391019)

if politicians were well educated or atleast made an effort to learn about a program
"[They are] elected to lead, not to read." -- The President of the US of A, according to the Simpsons Movie.

Re:How long until someone whines.... (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391047)

Humans are an inherently illogical species. The reason we need a manned space program right now is the same reason that hollywood movie starts get paid millions of dollars for work that has no practical value whatsoever. Namely, humans like to be amused, and they like drama. And there's nothing amusing or dramatic about lobbing a circuit-board on wheels at Mars, and then having it roll around collecting rocks.

Re:How long until someone whines.... (2, Funny)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391367)

And there's nothing amusing or dramatic about lobbing a circuit-board on wheels at Mars

Beagle II would like to have a word with you.

suddenly (1)

Ep0xi (1093943) | more than 6 years ago | (#21390331)

it also works under WiFi radiation, and can create wormholes with the simplicity of two non-similar concentric nanotubes irradiated with different kind of muons

acronym question (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21390333)

NASA is usually pronounced nassa, not en-ey-ess-ey
SCSI is usually pronounced scuzzy, not ess-see-ess-ai
etc.

So how is CNT pronounced in mixed company?
I'm actually serious.

Re:acronym question (1)

dbrower (114953) | more than 6 years ago | (#21390505)

Three letter acronyms tend to be spoken as letters, and four letter ones leap towards pronuciation.

NBA, NFL, CBS, ABC, NBC, FBI, CIA, ..., CNT

No, you're not serious, are you.

-dB

Re:acronym question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21390517)

No, you're not serious, are you.

heh heh,

Busted.

Re:acronym question (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391689)

Three letter acronyms tend to be spoken as letters, and four letter ones leap towards pronuciation.

NBA, NFL, CBS, ABC, NBC, FBI, CIA, ..., CNT

If the letters are pronounced separately, it's not an acronym.

Re:acronym question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21390751)

Some say Canute, some say Cannot. It would be preposterous to make it sound like a German philosopher.

Re:acronym question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21391405)

CNT is an initialism, not an acronym.

Re:acronym question (1)

gabriel.dain (928879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391561)

CNT is an initialism, not an acronym.
It is, in fact, both. Acronyms can be made up of only initial letters.

Re:acronym question (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391933)

CNT is an initialism, not an acronym.
It is, in fact, both. Acronyms can be made up of only initial letters.

Acronyms are nearly always made up of only initial letters. The difference between an acronym and an initialism is how it is pronounced. If you say the letters one by one, it's an initialism. If you form them into a pronounceable word (the classic example is Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) then it's an acronym.

What the GP is saying, then, is that CNT is pronounced "see enn tee".

No labcoat? (1)

snsh (968808) | more than 6 years ago | (#21390441)

The picture on the NASA website shows the researcher in her lab creating high-purity nanotubes, and she's wearing street clothes.

How can the organization that makes $20 million spacesuits not use $20 labcoats?

Greetings! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21390525)

I for one, welcome our Microscopic Carbon Overlords!

Use the superheated nanotubes Luke! (1)

MisterBone (865983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391621)

Sorry for the the silly subject line but I've got a question. How hot can a carbon nanotube be while still keeping it's structural strength? And how strong is that tube in normal conditions? I keep thinking about fishing rods, lasers and star wars whenever I read about carbon nanotubes, so if anyone has any information to stop my daydreams, please share.

Water-catalyst Deposition (1)

kriyasurfer (1190407) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391929)

I remember back in 2005 when I had just started up a consulting firm with several of my buddies. To make ends meet, we did some contracting from online sources. One of the contracts we won was to produce a marketing plan for a small hospital up in the North East. They had some money and they were looking at starting up some sort of carbon nanotube startup. While researching, we came across Dr. Benavides's discovery. I read the paper she published. It was pretty neat. The technique is relatively simple. You use a heli-arc torch to zap a rod of carbon. This is the "arc" method of carbon nanotube deposition. However, you do so in a chamber filled with water vapor. Somehow (the paper did not specify), the water vapors acts as a catalyst to help form single-walled carbon nanotubes. Compared with lasers and chemical vapor deposition, a heli-arc setup is much cheaper, both to setup and during manufacturing. I'm not sure if you needed to treat the resulting carbon nanotubes with sulferic acid; however, in general, you get high purity at a low cost. We were able to contact the NASA office of technology transfer, and even went as far as setting up a phone conference between our client and Dr. Benavides. At about the time we contacted the tech transfer folks, they said that Dr. Benavides's technique has been out on the market for at least two years, but by the time we contacted them, their phones were ringing off the hook. Our client never managed to talk to Dr. Benavides -- heck, they didn't even pay us -- but I'm glad this technology is finally seeing some commercialization. Incidentally, there was a paper published in Jan/Feb of 2005 by a Japanese research group whose technique (water-catalyst deposition) sounded awefully similar to Dr. Benavides's work ...

Space Elevator Cable? (1)

J_Omega (709711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21391961)

I'm surprised that noone's brought this up. From TFA:

Given their level of purity, the high-quality SWCNTs made using Benavides's discovery are particularly well suited for medical applications, where metal particles cannot be present, as well as applications where high strength and electrical conductivity are desired, since high purity enhances these characteristics. Yet, they can be used in other applications as well.

Plus they seem to be less expensive, more safe, and easier to produce this way.

Does this work help move us closer to what is needed for a Space Elevator cable?
From what I understand, the SE cable is the only part we don't know how to construct; the other technology exists or can rather quickly if/when needed.

The actual patent (3, Informative)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 6 years ago | (#21397003)

Patent found here [uspto.gov]

Abstract:
"A non-catalytic process for the production of carbon nanotubes includes supplying an electric current to a carbon anode and a carbon cathode which have been securely positioned in the open atmosphere with a gap between them. The electric current creates an electric arc between the carbon anode and the carbon cathode, which causes carbon to be vaporized from the carbon anode and a carbonaceous residue to be deposited on the carbon cathode. Inert gas [*] is pumped into the gap to flush out oxygen, thereby preventing interference with the vaporization of carbon from the anode and preventing oxidation of the carbonaceous residue being deposited on the cathode. The anode and cathode are cooled while electric current is being supplied thereto. When the supply of electric current is terminated, the carbonaceous residue is removed from the cathode and is purified to yield carbon nanotubes."

I assume this means she's identified the electric properties of the metal catalyst as the significant factor in the success of those techniques, and simply, with genius, replaces those properties with an electric current. You could probably do the same thing using a metamaterial or an EM radiation cavity, if you wanted to bypass the patent.

* "Intert gas" is usually helium, or the much, much cheaper alternative of nitrogen.
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