The original news released was published by the Rice University News & Media department, written by Mike Williams.
Although visually impressive, the inventions of Nikola Tesla haven’t been used for much aside from entertainment and education for the better part of the last century. This may be about to change, as scientists at Rice University have discovered that the strong force field emitted by a Tesla coil causes carbon nanotubes to self-assemble into long wires, a phenomenon they call “Teslaphoresis.” Paul Cherukuri, the lead researcher, sees these findings as a clear path towards scalable assembly of nanotubes.
The system works by remotely oscillating positive and negative charges in each nanotube, causing them to chain together into long wires. We recommend looking at the Rice University News video below to see the self-assembly in action.
Tesla coil causes nanotubes to do more than just self-assemble. As demonstrated in the video, nanotubes have formed a kind of circuit that connected two LED lights, and powered them by absorbing electric energy from the coil’s field. Additionally, it moved the assembled nanotubes towards the coil from across the room in a tractor beam-like effect.
“Electric fields have been used to move small objects, but only over ultrashort distances,” Cherukuri said. “With Teslaphoresis, we have the ability to massively scale up force fields to move matter remotely.”
It has been suggested that by using Tesla coils of various sizes and in different numbers, it should be possible to form more intricate self-assembling nanostructures. Entire electrical grids would be the obvious first choice, but as Lindsey Bornhoeft, the paper’s lead author, suggested, its uses are potentially huge: “These nanotube wires grow and act like nerves, and controlled assembly of nanomaterials from the bottom up may be used as a template for applications in regenerative medicine.”
“There are so many applications where one could utilize strong force fields to control the behavior of matter in both biological and artificial systems,” Cherukuri said. “And even more exciting is how much fundamental physics and chemistry we are discovering as we move along. This really is just the first act in an amazing story.”