Developments to Watch
`HAIRY CARBON' COULD BE THE NEXT WONDER CONDUCTOR
No, it's not a baldness cure. "Hairy carbon" is a new material developed by Debra D.L. Chung, an engineering professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The tiny carbon filaments--each about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair--are superior electricity and heat conductors. They could be used in fashioning small, long-lasting batteries and conductive polymers.
Increased conductive ability comes from the material's network of superfine fibers. A lithium battery electrode made from the filaments lasted 50% longer in tests than a standard cell, in part because the carbon "hairs" allowed the electrolyte to squeeze through and fully use the electrode. Ultrasmall batteries made from the material could be used in biomedical implants or for aerospace jobs. Chung next plans to mix the filaments into polymers to create conductive composites, which could be molded into shielding for sensitive instruments.EDITED BY NAOMI FREUNDLICH