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Chemically driven carbon-nanotube-guided thermopower waves


Theoretical calculations predict that by coupling an exothermic chemical reaction with a nanotube or nanowire possessing a high axial thermal conductivity, a self-propagating reactive wave can be driven along its length. Herein, such waves are realized using a 7-nm cyclotrimethylene trinitramine annular shell around a multiwalled carbon nanotube and are amplified by more than 104 times the bulk value, propagating faster than 2 m s−1, with an effective thermal conductivity of 1.28±0.2 kW m−1 K−1 at 2,860 K. This wave produces a concomitant electrical pulse of disproportionately high specific power, as large as 7 kW kg−1, which we identify as a thermopower wave. Thermally excited carriers flow in the direction of the propagating reaction with a specific power that scales inversely with system size. The reaction also evolves an anisotropic pressure wave of high total impulse per mass (300 N s kg−1). Such waves of high power density may find uses as unique energy sources.

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Figure 1: Schematic of an exothermic chemical reaction guided along a thermally conducting CNT and experimental realization of a MWNT encapsulated by TNA.
Figure 2: An accelerated, anisotropic reaction wave of TNA confined to an annular region around a nanotube thermal waveguide.
Figure 3: A chemically driven thermopower wave.
Figure 4: Anisotropic reaction propagation.


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This work was supported primarily by a grant to M.S.S. from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and from an NSF Career Award also to M.S.S. S.B. appreciates support by the WCU (World Class University) programme through the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Korea (R31-2008-000-10029-0). J.T.A. and W.J.C. acknowledge fellowship support from the National Science Foundation and ILJU, respectively. J-H.H. acknowledges support from the Korea Research Foundation (MOEHRD, KRF-2006-214-D00117). We acknowledge T. M. Swager for help with TNA extraction.

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W.J.C., M.S.S. and J-H.H. developed the concept. W.J.C. and S.H. carried out experiments. W.J.C. and J.T.A. conducted modelling and simulations. All authors contributed to data analysis and scientific discussion.

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Correspondence to Michael S. Strano.

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Choi, W., Hong, S., Abrahamson, J. et al. Chemically driven carbon-nanotube-guided thermopower waves. Nature Mater 9, 423–429 (2010).

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