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Tiny Brushes Make Guinness Record Book

Nanotube Brush
Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, has made his way into the Guinness Book of World Records. Working in collaboration with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Ajayan has created “the smallest nanotube brushes with bristles more than a thousand times finer than a human hair.”

The brushes, which are composed of millions of carbon nanotubes, already have been tested in a variety of tasks that range from cleaning microscopic surfaces to serving as electrical contacts, and they eventually could be used in a host of electronic, biomedical, and environmental applications, Ajayan says.

The researchers have used the brushes to remove nanoparticles in microscopic grooves on various substrates, and they have cleaned and coated the inside of a 300-micrometer-wide capillary tube. Because carbon nanotubes conduct electricity, the brushes have been successfully used as electromechanical switches in micromotors and as electrical contacts. They also could be used to sweep away tiny particles and dust that cause static electricity, particularly nanosize particles that are difficult to remove by other means, Ajayan says. Static electricity due to particulate attraction is a bane to the electronics industry. From a biomedical perspective, the brushes are small enough to be used to clean up unwanted deposits in arteries and other blood vessels, Ajayan adds.

This is not the first big recognition for the tiny materials. Nature magazine selected a scanning electron micrograph of the brushes as one of its “favorite images from 2005.”

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