In the ever-evolving world of automobiles, technological innovations are as important – maybe even more – as putting together a powerful engine. There’s always that thin line between being an innovator and being a follower and if you ask all car manufacturers all over the world, all of them would prefer being the former than the latter. For the past couple of months, Honda, together with scientists from Purdue University, may have discovered the next breakthrough in vehicular development after discovering that microscopic carbon nanotubes just might become a quicker and more efficient way of distributing electricity in cars. In addition to that, the newly-discovered nanotubes are also being touted as a better – lighter yet stronger - material than carbon fiber.

Honda's discovery of carbon nanotubes could be a revolutionary breakthrough
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The discovery of carbon nanotubes has the capacity to revolutionize the way cars are going to be produced in the future, especially when it comes to the production of batteries, cables, fuel cells, and solar cells. But what’s more important than all of that is the fact that this new breakthrough can also become beneficial on other industries like robotics, and supercapacitors. According to Dr. Hideaki Tsuru, the project director of the Honda Research Institute USA, "Our goal is not only the creation of new and better technologies and products, but to fulfill Honda’s commitment to environment sustainability.”

Like we said, sometimes there are scientific discoveries that go beyond the realm of the industry it is in and this is one of those times. Whether or not the discovery of carbon nanotubes results in more efficient cars remains to be seen, but it does open a world of other possibilities not just in the auto industry, but in others as well.

Press release after the jump.

PRESS RELEASE

NANO TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPED BY HONDA OPENS NEW POTENTIAL IN ELECTRONICS

Microscopic carbon nanotubes a hundred thousand times thinner than a human hair may have the potential to transport electricity faster and over greater distances with minimal loss of energy, according to new research that will be published today in Science magazine.

The research was led by Honda Research Institute USA, Inc., in conjunction with researchers at Purdue University and the University of Louisville.

The findings open new possibilities for miniaturisation and energy efficiency, including much more powerful and compact computers, electrodes for supercapacitors, electrical cables, batteries, solar cells, fuel cells, artificial muscles, composite material for automobiles and planes, energy storage materials and electronics for hybrid vehicles.

Microscopic carbon nanotubes are grown on the surface of metal nanoparticles, taking the cylindrical form of rolled honeycomb sheets with carbon atoms in their tips. When these tiny carbon nanotubes exhibit metallic conductivity they possess extraordinary strength compared to steel, higher electrical properties than copper, are as efficient in conducting heat as a diamond and are as light as cotton.

"Our goal is not only the creation of new and better technologies and products, but to fulfill Honda’s commitment to environment sustainability," said Dr. Hideaki Tsuru, project director from Honda Research Institute USA.

Past research efforts to control the structural formation of carbon nanotubes with metallic conductivity through conventional methodology resulted in a success rate of approximately 25 - 50 per cent. Honda has worked in the field of carbon nanotube synthesis for almost a decade, and has achieved a success rate of 91 per cent metallic conductivity.

"This is the first report that shows we can control fairly systematically whether carbon nanotubes achieve a metallic state. Further research is in progress with the ultimate goal to take complete control over grown nanotube configurations to support their real world application," said Dr. Avetik Harutyunyan, principal scientist from Honda Research Institute USA, and the leader of the project.

"Our finding shows that the nanotube configuration which defines its conductivity depends not only on the size of the metal nanocatalyst used to nucleate the tube as was previously believed, but importantly also is based on its shape and crystallographic structure, and we learned to control it," said Dr. Harutyunyan, whose team of Honda scientists included Dr. Gugang Chen and Dr. Elena Pigos.

"We are excited about our teamwork and collaborations with researchers at Purdue and Louisville, who helped achieve this advance," he said. Researchers at Purdue, led by Professor Eric Stach, used a transmission electron microscope to observe nanotube formation, revealing that changes in the gaseous environment can vary the shape of the metal catalyst nanoparticles from very sharp faceted to completely round. Researchers at Louisville, led by Professor Gamini Sumanasekera, produced the nanotubes in larger volumes and made careful measurements to determine whether the nanotubes achieve a metallic state.

Honda’s innovative research and development efforts during the past decade have yielded diverse innovations such as humanoid robotics, walking assist devices, the HondaJet, fuel cell technology, increased rice crop yields, and thin film solar cells, in addition to the design and development of automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment products.

Honda has conducted consumer product related R&D in the United States since 1975 at Honda R&D Americas, Inc. For the purpose of researching future technologies, in January 2003, Honda Research Institute USA, Inc. (HRI-US) was founded along with HRI-EU (Europe) and HRI-JP (Japan). U.S. offices are located in California, Ohio and Massachusetts and include a computer science research division focused on human intelligence technologies and a materials science research division focused on functional nano-materials.

Source: Honda

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