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LU positioned to lead research on carbon nanotubes

A study published in “C Journal of Carbon Research” could bring distinctive research to Lamar University.

The article, “The State of HiPco Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes in 2019,” resulting from a collaborative
Anto Godwin, Scientist at NoPo Nanotechnologies holding NoPo HiPCO® Nanotubes in front of the NoPo HiPCO® Reactors in Bangalore, India.
Anto Godwin, scientist at NoPo Nanotechnologies holds
NoPo HiPCO® Nanotubes in front of the NoPo HiPCO®
Reactors in Bangalore, India.
research effort of scientists at Swansea University, Wales, UK, Rice University, Lamar University and NoPo Nanotechnologies, India, validates NoPo Nanotechnologies as a producer of high-pressure carbon monoxide (HiPco)-synthesized single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), which ensures research in this vital field of science continues.

The article, resulting from findings of lead researchers Andrew Barron at Swansea University and Varun Gangoli at Rice University, compares SWCNTs produced by a HiPco reactor at Rice University, which has shutdown resulting in a shortage of SWCNTs, and a new HiPco material, referred to as NoPo HiPCO®, as an alternative to Rice HiPco SWCNTs.

“The reason this story is so important is because the source of all the HiPco material for the entire world has been one little torch-bearer at Rice University,” said Kelley Bradley, professor, LU Department of Industrial Engineering and director of LU’s makerspace. “Now that the torch has gone out, just in the nick of time, a new torch has been lit at NoPo and work developing SWCNTs can go on.”

Bradley, who helped develop the original Rice HiPco reactor to produce SWCNTs that would be scalable for industrial level production while a graduate student at Rice University and helped found NoPo Nanotechnologies, said having a reliable source of SWCNTs, especially in large quantities, has always been a critical need and the HiPco reactor was designed to address it.

“The problem is that we still don’t know the full extent of SWCNTs useful properties because they have been difficult and expensive to produce,” said Bradley.  “Since the late 90’s researchers, the world over, have been studying them and developing applications, but their efforts have been limited to working with very small quantities, usually on the order of a few grams of material.”

Bradley believes now that NoPo Nanotechnologies, located in Bangalore India, has developed an updated version of the reactor, which is more efficient than the Rice reactor and will be producing SWCNTs, ground breaking research will result.

“SWCNTs have many desirable properties such as mechanical strength, electrical conductivity and resistance to chemicals and corrosion.  One striking application is Vantablack paint, which is so black it looks unreal,” said Bradley. “Another application is the incorporation of SWCNTs into composites to make strong lightweight materials, as well as plastics that prevent the buildup of electrostatic charge.  There is even some reasonable hope that if woven into a rope or cable, SWCNTs could prove strong enough to create the science fiction dream of a space elevator.”  

In the near future, Bradley hopes to establish agreements to have an active collaboration between Lamar and NoPo Nanotechnologies. In the meantime, he is teaching an honors seminar on Nanotechnology.

“Because of my position, and because of the uniqueness of the NoPo HiPCO® reactor, there are possibilities to do research at Lamar University that could not be done anywhere else, and I’m very excited about this,” said Bradley.