Researchers in the US have discovered a novel method of changing the chemical characteristics of carbon nanotubes, which could have implications for future packaging applications.
Somenath Mitra, professor of chemistry and environmental sciences, and Zafar Iqbal, also a professor of chemistry and environmental sciences at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), found that by heating them in a closed vessel microwave oven, the tubes can be chemically modified without damaging their essential structure.
"A carbon nanotube is just carbon," said Mitra. "The surprise for us is that it's difficult to make nanotubes react with anything. They are like diamonds - very, very inert. They don't react and they don't dissolve in water. But, if you can change their chemical characteristics as we have done using our method, we see them transform right before our eyes."
It is hoped that the new technology could revolutionise food packaging in the future. The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (SINTEF) for example is currently using nanotechnology to create small particles in the film and improve the transportation of some gases through the plastic film to pump out dirty air such as carbon dioxide.