This significant discovery in nanotechnology could also be the first practical use of a Tesla coil in modern times that goes beyond fun and education. A self-funded research team at Rice University has found that unordered heaps of carbon nanotubes will self-assemble into conductive wires when exposed to the electric field of a strong Tesla coil. The related paper by lead author and graduate student [Lindsey R. Bornhoeft], introduces the phenomenon as “Teslaphoresis”.
“I would have never thought, as a 14-year-old kid building coils, that it was going to be useful someday” says Rice University chemist [Paul Cherukuri], who redesigned the classic Tesla coil to produce a stronger, more directed force field and built the research prototype. The team also found that their idea of self-assembly could be extended to little LED circuits, which apparently harvest energy from the coil’s field to light up the LEDs.
Carbon nanotubes are microscopic tube-like structures from carbon atoms. Because of their special mechanical and electrical properties, researchers are currently searching for practical applications thereof. In particular, carbon nanotubes can be semiconductors, metals and superconductors depending on their structure, but a scalable method of assembling them into practical circuits has yet to be found.
Further studies will have to prove or disprove how and to what extent the described self-assembly process can actually be controlled or is applicable, but the recent demonstration certainly gives you a taste of the potential of the discovery. We are curious to hear if any of our readers had ever tried something similar on their own coils – let us know in the comments!
Thanks to [Mechanicus] for the tip!