Starting small

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Greaney’s focused on trying to create nano sensors with stiff carbon nanotubes. Their size means they can vibrate very quickly and interact with molecules—clusters of atoms.

drawing of nanotubes
To understand how the nanotubes and molecules interact, researchers first study the interaction of vibrations between two nanotubes.
Image courtesy P. Alex Greaney

“When a molecule of whatever it is that you’re trying to detect meets a carbon nanotube, the vibration of the nanotube changes. You can measure that change. By understanding these complicated interactions, we hope to rival or even improve on the amazing nanoscale detection systems that nature has already developed.”

drawing of nanotubes
Then, Greaney says, “Armed with our understanding of how two nanotubes interact, we can move on to the more challenging problem of studying a molecule which is vibrationally interacting with a carbon nanotube.” Image courtesy P. Alex Greaney