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Sorting the semiconducting wheat from the metallic chaff:

•, By Joel Hruska
 These days, CNTs have largely been obscured by the mad rush to research graphene (though not entirely), but there’s still some work being done on nature’s version of the ultimate Fruit Roll-up. This week, scientists with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology held a demonstration of a new sorting technique that could make sorting carbon nanotubes — and thus building things with nanotubes — much simpler

The problem with CNTs is essentially a quality control issue. We can make them — but aligning them in the proper direction has proven to be difficult. The problem is exacerbated when attempting to build semiconductors. Dope a group of CNTs and you wind up with a set of semiconducting CNTs and a set of metal CNTs — and separating them out from each other is extremely difficult. Past methods have included the use of a centrifuge and a gel-based sorting method that works, but tops out at a purity of 88-94%. While even that was notable, 94% purity is far too low for semiconductor applications at the cutting edge, where impurities of just a few atoms can cause problems.

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