Public Release:  Nanotube thermopower

Efforts to store energy in carbon nanotubes described at AVS Meeting in Albuquerque

American Institute of Physics

WASHINGTON, D.C., (Oct. 19, 2010) -- When weighing options for energy storage, different factors can be important, such as energy density or power density, depending on the circumstances. Generally batteries -- which store energy by separating chemicals -- are better for delivering lots of energy, while capacitors -- which store energy by separating electrical charges -- are better for delivering lots of power (energy per time). It would be nice, of course, to have both.

Today at the AVS 57th International Symposium & Exhibition, which takes place this week at the Albuquerque Convention Center in New Mexico, Michael Strano and his colleagues at MIT will report on efforts to store energy in thin carbon nanotubes by adding fuel along the length of the tube, chemical energy, which can later be turned into electricity by heating one end of the nanotubes. This thermopower process works as follows: the heat sets up a chain reaction, and a wave of conversion travels down the nanotubes at a speed of about 10 m/s.

"Carbon nanotubes continue to teach us new things -- thermopower waves as a first discovery open a new space of power generation and reactive wave physics," Strano says.

A typical lithium ion battery has a power density of 1 kW/kg. Although the MIT researchers have yet to scale up their nanotube materials, they obtain discharge pulses with power densities around 7 kW/kg.

Strano will also be reporting new results on experiments exploiting carbon nanopores of unprecedented size, 1.7 nm in diameter and 500 microns long.

"Carbon nanopores," he says, "allow us to trap and detect single molecules and count them one by one," the first time this has been done. And this was at room temperature.

The single molecules under study can move across the nanotubes one at a time in a process called coherence resonance. "This has never been shown before for any inorganic system to date," says Strano, "but it underpins the workings of biological ion channels."


The presentation, "New Concepts in Molecular and Energy Transport Within Carbon Nanotubes: Thermopower Waves and Stochastically Resonant Ion Channels" is at 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday, October 19, 2010.


The AVS 57th International Symposium and Exhibition is being held October 17-22, 2010, at the Albuquerque Convention Center, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The meeting includes more than 1,200 talks and posters presented in more than 130 technical sessions. All meeting information, including directions to the Convention Center, can be found at:

REGISTRATION -- Staff reporters and professional freelance journalists working on assignment are invited to attend the conference free of charge. Journalist registration instructions can be found at:


The AVS press room will be located in East Lobby of the Albuquerque Convention Center. Press room hours are Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The phone number there is 408-205-0595. Press Kits containing company product announcements and other news will be available on CD-ROM in the press room. Also access the online press room at:


Complete Program:
Searchable abstracts:
Topical Conferences:
Meeting Home Page:


The plenary talk, "Carbon Nanotubes and Single Sheet Graphene," which will be at noon on Monday, October 18, 2010 in Ballroom B of the Albuquerque Convention Center. See:


AVS promotes communication, dissemination of knowledge, recommended practices, research, and education in a broad range of technologically relevant topics. One way that it does this is by offering special tutorials in areas such as:

- Graphene Tutorial (Sunday, October 17, 2010, 1:00-5:00 p.m.)

- Tutorial on Nanoparticle Characterization and Toxicity: Significant Challenges and Critical Needs (Sunday, October 17, 2010, 1:00-5:00 p.m.)

To access the complete descriptions of these special tutorials, see:


As a professional membership organization, AVS fosters networking within the materials, processing, and interfaces community at various local, national or international meetings and exhibits throughout the year. AVS publishes four journals, honors and recognizes members through its prestigious awards program, offers training and other technical resources, as well as career services.

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