NASA GSFC - 2010 Feb 22
Space apparently has its own recipe for making carbon nanotubes, one of the most intriguing contributions of nanotechnology here on Earth, and metals are conspicuously missing from the list of ingredients.
The finding is the surprising by-product of lab experiments designed by Joseph Nuth at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and his colleagues to address the astronomical question of how carbon gets recycled in the regions of space that spawn stars and planets. The work also could help researchers understand puzzling observations about some supernovas.
In a recent paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters, Nuth’s team describes the modest chemical reaction. Unlike current methods for producing carbon nanotubes—tiny yet strong structures with a range of applications in electronics and, ultimately, perhaps even medicine—the new approach does not need the aid of a metal catalyst. "Instead, nanotubes were produced when graphite dust particles were exposed to a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gases," explains Nuth.