Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

These seeds could potentially be placed in specific locations on a computer chip using an existing chemical method, Tour says. Nanotubes with selected electronic properties could then be grown exactly where they are needed.

The Rice method is an outgrowth of research by the late Richard Smalley, who received the Nobel Prize in 1996 for discovering buckyballs, or fullerenes, and pioneered much of today’s work on carbon nanotubes. Smalley, who died just over a year ago, is the first author on the paper.

Many other researchers are developing methods for eliminating unwanted nanotubes from a batch by using ultracentrifuges or electric fields to sort them or by etching them away (see “Nanotube Computing Breakthrough” and “A Step Closer to Nanotube Computers”). These methods, however, aren’t as selective as the iron particle-carbon nanotube seeding technique being developed at Rice.

The main issue with the Rice method is yield. In the current research, only about 3 percent of the chopped up nanotubes grew larger. Tour hopes to improve yield by adjusting the fit between the size of the iron nanoparticles used as catalysts and the diameter of the nanotubes being grown.

The researchers also need to demonstrate that the process can work with a variety of nanotube types and grow nanotubes on a much larger scale, Strano says.

If these obstacles can be overcome, the new method could be a boon to engineers and scientists alike. The variation among nanotubes is so great that there’s “almost a new periodic table of nanotube types,” Strano says. “If [the Rice method] works, it will really enable the field.”

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me