My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Researchers at Rice University investigate the Mechanical Properties of Carbyne Fibers

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Researchers at Rice University investigate the Mechanical Properties of Carbyne Fibers

“People usually look for what is called the 'ground state,' the lowest possible energy configuration for atoms. For carbon, that would be graphite, followed by diamond, then nanotubes, then fullerenes. But nobody asks about the highest energy configuration. We think this may be it, a stable structure at the highest energy possible.”

Rice University Theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson commenting on the calculations of the mechanical properties of one-dimensional Carbyne Fibers

Scientists at Rice University have recently published a paper on the theoretical properties of one-dimensional Carbyne Fibers that suggest that if synthesized in the same manner as Carbon Nanotubes, it’ll be the strongest material on earth as stated in the article “Carbon's new champion: Theorists calculate atom-thick Carbyne chains may be strongest material ever”, published Oct 09, 2013, and “Carbon’s new champion”, published OCTOBER 9, 2013 by MIKE WILLIAMS, Rice University.

To be honest, I’m not really a fan of Theoretical Physics, especially as popular show The Big Bang Theory (2007- ) makes me realize you can’t really make a living as a Theoretical Physicist, especially if you can’t find way to make your paper into practical workable products. Thus I’m hoping the Boffins at Rice University can start working on how to make these Carbyne Fibers, as if it’s anything like Carbon Nanotubes or better, as a Telecoms Consultant, I’m pretty excited!

I like this paper on Carbyne Fibers, mainly because I’ve been hearing about Carbon Nanotubes being used in making a CNT Processor as explained in my blog article entitled “University of Stanford Designs a Proof-of-concept Processor using Carbon Nanotubes - Practical option to expand Moore’s Law along with Optical, Quantum and Neural Net Processors”, so I know practical applications will spur someone to develop away to make this on a large scale.

The Rice University Team was led by graduate student Mingjie Liu and postdoctoral Researcher Vasilii Artyukhov with Rice University theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson to provide some guidance to the group. Their paper, which was published on the week of Sunday October 9th 2013 in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano, paints a picture of a chain of Carbon atoms that form a one dimensional string of carbon atoms one atom thick. Each Carbon atom is connected to the other either by:

1.      Double Bonds
2.      Single and Triple Bonds

The video below illustrates this exactly:

To get an idea what this implies, it’d be at the top of this list if Rice University Researchers could figure out a way to synthesize it on a massive factory scale.

Scientists had calculated it would take an elephant standing on a pencil to break through a sheet of graphene. The Rice University paper cites certain properties that make Carbyne Fibers a candidate for the strongest material on earth, even stronger than Diamonds:

1.      Carbyne's tensile strength is double that of graphene and any known material
2.       It has twice the tensile stiffness of graphene and carbon nanotubes and nearly three times that of Diamond.
3.      Stretching Carbyne as little as 10 percent alters its electronic band gap significantly.
4.      If outfitted with molecular handles at the ends, it can also be twisted to alter its band gap. With a 90-degree end-to-end rotation, it becomes a magnetic semiconductor.
5.      Carbyne chains can take on side molecules that may make the chains suitable for energy storage.
6.      The material is stable at room temperature, largely resisting crosslink’s with nearby chains.

Carbyne Fibers – The Ultimate Spongebob Squarepants

Based on the Mechanical strength Calculations by the Rice University Team, not only would the one-dimensional Carbyne Fibers be the strongest material on earth, but they’re uncreative with each other and stable, despite the high energy needed to for the double and Triple bonds.

As such Carbyne Fibers don’t interact with each other bond repulsion means that if Fibers were made of this material, it would be highly absorbent of liquids like water as huge molecule size spaces would exist between the Fibers. Its Fibers would also be very slippers, literally like ice on ice as double and triple bond repulsion would maintain the distance between the Fibers, making such Fibers slippery and wet to touch, despite the lack of water.

But most exciting to me is its applications for synthesis if the Carbyne Fibers have a lot of double bonds or triple bonds, it can react with side chains to produce other long chain hydrocarbons such as fats, oils and even Fuels such as Gasoline and Kerosene.  Not sure what the Rice University Research Team means by side chain reactions; those are just regular reactions with atoms with a valency of 1 electron e.g. Hydrogen. Storing Hydrogen is something most long chain Hydrocarbons do already; we call that gasoline and Diesel!

Carbyne Fibers – Superconducting USB 4.0 Cables that’ll replace Fiber Optic Thunderbolt

Still, as a Telecom Technician I’m interested. This as such a material would be a lot like Carbon Nanotubes, which we can already synthesize into very long Fibers and twisted into ropes. This as such Carbyne Fibers would be room temperature Superconductors, making Electrical Wires made from Copper obsolete as soon as a way to mass produce them is discovered.

Their magnetic properties means that they can be used for high speed Network Cable that isn’t Fiber Optic in nature. That’s good; I’d love good old fashioned cables that can carry signals electrically as a superconductor and yet aren’t as delicate or expensive as Fiber Optic Cables. Best of all they’d work well under water, when wet.

If they’re as stable and unreactive as the Rice University Researchers claim, they’ll make great undersea cables, provided they’re coated with a compound that can keep out the seawater as dissolved salt may be able to breach the Activation energy needed to make side chain reactions possible.

Their speed would make them great candidates for a new class of super fast Cable connectors in Supercomputers. If it was cheaper to make than Fiber Optic Cables, they’d be the next USB 4.0 Standard, as USB 3.0 is currently stuck at 10GBps as stated in my blog article entitled “USB 3.0 Standards Promotion Group announced 10Gbps capable USB 3.1 Standard - How PC and Laptop Sales can be revived by going Turbo”.

Using superconductive Carbyne Fibers could take USB 4.0 into 100GPps and even 1TBps speed ranges, besting the fragile Fiber Optic Based Thunderbolt Cables with Equivalent speeds and yet the ability to carry electricity, something Fiber Optic Cables currently cannot do.

So as I’d said, I’m very excited with this development. Hopefully this’ll become real soon instead of being yet another theoretical paper on a material that’s very much needed in Telecoms for both its mechanical properties as it’s needed for its Electrical and Data Transmission properties. 

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