Mind & Matter


Nanowires to Replace Metal Cables

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Conductive carbon nanotube cables, developed by Rice University.


The increasing cost of metals, coupled with the energy required to transport them, has inspired researchers to find alternatives in areas such as wiring. With this goal in mind, Rice University researchers have developed cables made of double-walled carbon nanotubes that can transport electricity just as efficiently as standard metal cables at one-sixth the weight. The scientists predict that these cables will replace metal-based equivalents in cases where weight is a critical factor—such as in airplanes and cars. Eventually, standard wiring in buildings may be made of carbon nanotubes.

According to researcher Yao Zhao, the new cables show no signs of degradation under thorough testing, and perform well under a wide range of temperatures. "We really want to go better than what copper or other metals can offer overall," says Enrique Barrera, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Rice.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.