Materials Today reports on a new way to use carbon nanotubes to manufacture mechanical components, which can then be used in micro-machines.
The problem so far has been in reducing the size of mechanical systems. Other corners of the scientific community have managed to miniaturise components to the nanoscale level, but shrinking mechanical systems has proved difficult.
A scientist, Manuel Belmonte, has implanted carbon nanotubes in silicon nitride, a ceramic. Using this technique he and his team have increased electrical doncutivity by 13 orders of magnitude.
They then used an existing technique, electrical discharge machining (or EDM), to create a microgear with relatively little trouble.
EDM usually means a target material has to be electrically conductive, giving rise to problems with using the technique on ceramic materials. It uses, says Elsevier, a spark of electricity to get rid of unwanted materials – with the remaining material creating complex shapes.
According to Belmonte, the breakthrough should lead to the manufacturing of intricate 3D components. In turn advanced ceramics could become a viable option along with other insulating materials.
The full, in-depth article is available here.