From Minneapolis, at a meeting of the American Physical Society
Rolling, rolling, rolling. Keep those nanotubes rolling.
Carbon nanotubes are slender, hollow, cylindrical molecules of pure carbon. Extraordinarily strong and flexible, with intriguing electronic properties, the microscopic tubes offer scientists pure fascination (SN: 8/21/99, p. 127).
Now, Michael R. Falvo and Richard Superfine of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and their colleagues may have discovered why the tubes sometimes roll and at other times slide when pushed across a graphite surface by the tip of an atomic-force microscope.
From experiments and computer simulations, the researchers find evidence that tubes roll only when the honeycomb lattice of the carbon atoms meshes with graphite's identical carbon lattice.
"That's very exciting," Falvo says, partly because it suggests that nanotubes are fulfilling a long-held dream of nanotechnology pioneers: gears