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The Sensitive Side of Carbon Nanotubes: Creating Powerful Pressure Sensors

SpecialChem / Nov 26, 2007

Blocks of carbon nanotubes can be used to create effective and powerful pressure sensors, according to a new study by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Taking advantage of the material's unique electrical and mechanical properties, researchers repeatedly squeezed a 3-millimeter nanotube block and discovered it was highly suitable for potential applications as a pressure sensor. No matter how many times or how hard they squeezed the block, it exhibited a constant, linear relationship between how much force was applied and electrical resistance. "Because of the linear relationship between load and stress, it can be a very good pressure sensor," said Subbalakshmi Sreekala, a postdoctoral researcher at Rensselaer and author of the study. A sensor incorporating the carbon nanotube block would be able to detect very slight weight changes and would be beneficial in any number of practical and industrial applications, Sreekala said. Two potential applications are a pressure gauge to check the air pressure of automobile tires, and a microelectromechanical pressure sensor that could be used in semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

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