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Scientists Stretch Electrically Conducting Fibers to New Lengths


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Complex two-dimensional buckling, shown in yellow, of the carbon nanotube sheath/rubber-core fiber.

An international research team has made electrically conducting fibers that can be reversibly stretched to over 14 times their initial length and whose electrical conductivity increases 200-fold when stretched.

Credit: UT Dallas News Center

University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) researchers have developed electrically conducting fibers that can be reversibly stretched to more than 14 times their initial length and whose electrical conductivity increases 200-fold when stretched.

The researchers are using the new fibers to create artificial muscles, as well as capacitors whose energy storage capacity increases about 10-fold when the fibers are stretched.

They built the fibers by wrapping lighter-than-air, electrically conductive sheets of carbon nanotubes to form a jelly roll-like sheath around a long rubber core.

Even intense stretching of the new sheath-core fibers causes little change in their electrical resistance, says Ray Baughman, director of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at UT Dallas.

Since the rubber core is stretched along its length as the sheets are being wrapped around it, when the wrapped rubber relaxes, the carbon nanofibers form a complex buckled structure, which allows for repeated stretching of the fiber.

"These amazing fibers maintain the same electrical resistance, even when stretched by giant amounts, because electrons can travel over such a hierarchically buckled sheath as easily as they can traverse a straight sheath," Baughman says.

The researchers demonstrated the conducting elastomers can be fabricated in diameters ranging from about 150 microns to much larger sizes.

From UT Dallas News Center
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