Nanotubes assemble! Rice introduces ‘Teslaphoresis’

“Teslaphoresis” is self-assembly at a distance.

April 14, 2016 | Mike Williams | Rice University | Photo Image: Source

“Reconfigured Tesla coil aligns, electrifies materials from a distance” 

“HOUSTON – (April 14, 2016) – Scientists at Rice University have discovered that the strong force field emitted by a Tesla coil causes carbon nanotubes to self-assemble into long wires, a phenomenon they call “Teslaphoresis.”

The team led by Rice chemist Paul Cherukuri reported its results this week in ACS Nano.

Cherukuri sees this research as setting a clear path toward scalable assembly of nanotubes from the bottom up.

The system works by remotely oscillating positive and negative charges in each nanotube, causing them to chain together into long wires. Cherukuri’s specially designed Tesla coil even generates a tractor beam-like effect as nanotube wires are pulled toward the coil over long distances.

This force-field effect on matter had never been observed on such a large scale, Cherukuri said, and the phenomenon was unknown to Nikola Tesla, who invented the coil in 1891 with the intention of delivering wireless electrical energy.

“Electric fields have been used to move small objects, but only over ultrashort distances,” Cherukuri said. “With Teslaphoresis, we have the ability to massively scale up force fields to move matter remotely.”

The researchers discovered that the phenomenon simultaneously assembles and powers circuits that harvest energy from the field. In one experiment, nanotubes assembled themselves into wires, formed a circuit connecting two LEDs and then absorbed energy from the Tesla coil’s field to light them.

Cherukuri realized a redesigned Tesla coil could create a powerful force field at distances far greater than anyone imagined. His team observed alignment and movement of the nanotubes several feet away from the coil. “It is such a stunning thing to watch these nanotubes come alive and stitch themselves into wires on the other side of the room,” he said.

Nanotubes were a natural first test material, given their heritage at Rice, where the HiPco production process was invented. But the researchers envision many other nanomaterials can be assembled as well.”

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