Mind & Matter


New Electricity Source Found in Materials

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Thermopower Wave in Carbon Nanotube. Image by Christine Daniloff.


MIT researchers working with carbon nanotubes have discovered an intriguing process that occurs when the structures are covered with fuel and ignited: they generate electricity. Just as floating objects in a body of water are moved along by wave action, the “thermopower wave” phenomenon occurs because electrons are propelled by moving pulses of heat within the micro-lattice structure of the nanotubes.

Professor Michael Strano claims this migration of energy through carbon nanotubes “opens up a new era of energy research, which is rare.” Potential applications include self-powered micro-scaled electronic devices and power-generating surface coatings.




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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.