Your old copies of Lab News may still have some unexpected uses in the lab…
Researchers have successfully grown carbon nanotubes in the lab on stacks of old newspapers.
The unusual method, outlined by Swansea University and Rice University researchers in MDPI Journal C, could cut costs of preparing surfaces for mass manufacture of carbon nanotubes.
Lead researcher Bruce Brinson said: "Newspapers have the benefit of being used in a roll-to-roll process in a stacked form making it an ideal candidate as a low-cost stackable 2D surface to grow carbon nanotubes."
The research team used raw carbon soot on kaolin sized paper. After chemical vapour deposition, the soot was found to consist primarily of carbon nanotubes and bi-layer graphene in the form of collapsed nanotubes.
Only newspapers produced with sizing made from kaolin resulted in CNT growth, the researchers found.
Carbon nanotubes, or CNTs, are cylindrical molecules that consist of rolled-up sheets of single-layer carbon atoms, or graphene. CNTs have applications in flexible electronics, water filtration, antennas for 5G networks and energy storage.
Co-author Varun Shenoy Gangoli said: "Many substances including talc, calcium carbonate and titanium dioxide can be used in sizing in papers which act as a filler to help with their levels of absorption and wear.
“However it was our observation that kaolin sizing, and not calcium carbonate sizing, showed us how the growth catalyst, which in our case was iron, is affected by the chemical nature of the substrate."
While we await a response from our printers regarding the suitability of Lab News in CNT experiments, Professor Andrew R. Barron at the University of Swansea told us that some glossy magazines might also work.
"Because it is glossy magazine it is actually kaolin coated so it should work as a substrate," he said. "Non-glossy paper has sizing that is sometimes kaolin but it is difficult to know without knowing the source of the paper."