Nanotechnology researchers are working
to construct materials at the level of molecules and atoms in order to
produce substances that have specific, precise electrical properties.
Researchers from the University of Bologna and the University
of Trieste in Italy, and the University of Notre Dame have found a way
to alter carbon nanotubes so that they efficiently separate electrical
charge. The method could lead to more efficient solar cells.
Carbon nanotubes are long, rolled-up sheets of carbon atoms that
can be smaller than a nanometer in diameter and are a natural component
of soot. A nanometer is the span of 10 hydrogen atoms.
The researchers attached ferrocene molecules to the wall of every
hundredth nanotube in a jumble of nanotubes. A ferrocene molecules contains
two flat carbon rings sandwiching an iron atom; the molecule will readily
give up an electron. When visible light hits the altered nanotubes, the
ferrocene molecules readily give up electrons, which are absorbed by the
The electrons can then be diverted to provide a useful flow electricity.
The researchers are working on adding light collectors like dyes to the
The method could be used in practical applications in 10 to 20
years, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the September
11, 2003 issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
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