From Orlando, Fla., at a meeting of the American Chemical Society
Since they were first made in 1991, microscopic tubes of carbon atoms have become the focus of research aimed at developing future nanoscale electronics, machines, and drug-delivery systems. To realize such dreams, some scientists are adding groups of atoms to the carbon nanotubes' exteriors that enable the tubes to dissolve in water, join together chemically, or otherwise interact with various materials.
One of those techniques has yielded an unexpected result that could improve the nanotubes for some uses, reports Zhenning Gu of Rice University in Houston. After adding fluorine atoms to the nanotubes' surfaces, Gu and her colleagues found that heating the 1-micrometer-long tubes to high temperatures drove off the fluorine and cut the cylinders into short pieces. Most of these segments were less than five percent the length of the original tube.