Antwerp researchers make nanotube breakthrough


Work by scientists at Antwerp University to arrange organic molecules in nanotubes could lead to faster telecommunications

Facing the same way

Scientists from Antwerp University have succeeded in arranging organic molecules in nanotubes, a breakthrough that could lead to applications in optic telecommunication. The findings were published in the magazine Nature Nanotechnology.

To use the organic molecules for optic applications, they have to be arranged in the same direction in a nanotube. That has been a problem until now, because the opposite charges attract each other. “You can compare them with two magnets,” explained researcher Jochen Campo in a press release. “If  two magnets stick to each other, they don’t really work anymore. But if you put the magnets in the same direction in a narrow tube, they form one strong magnet together.”

The tubes in which the molecules are arranged are made of one layer of carbon atoms, rolled up into a cylinder. They only have a diameter of one nanometre, which is just enough for the molecules. “They are the strongest known fibres, unbelievably strong and still light as a feather,” said Campo. “They are ideal to protect the fragile organic molecules.”

The method, using molecules that strengthen each other, is generally applicable. It is of great importance in a fundamental scientific sense but can also lead to applications like materials for faster optic data communication.