One of 2015’s big science stories, Flinders University’s ‘egg unboiler’ (also known as, a vortex fluidic device). has made the news again in a March 11, 2016 news item on phys.org,
Technology used by scientists to unboil an egg is being adapted to precisely cut through carbon nanotubes used in solar panel manufacturing and cancer treatment.
Scientists from Flinders University in South Australia have proven their Vortex Fluidic Device’s ability to slice through carbon nanotubes with great precision.
A March 11, 2016 story written by Caleb Radford for The Lead, which originated the news item, notes the advantages to using this technology for slicing carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and prospects for commercialization,
Device creator and Flinders University Professor Colin Raston said the carbon nanotubes could be commercialised within 12 months.
“Importantly for this technology is that we have uniformity in products,” he said.
“It opens it up for applications in drug delivery if you can get all of the carbon nanotubes to about 100 nanometres … 100 nanometres is the ideal length for getting into tumours so you can actually functionalise them to target cancer cells.
“Uniformity in products also means that you can improve the solar cell efficiency in solar cell devices.”
Flinders University scientists last year were awarded an Ig Nobel Award for creating the Vortex Fluidic Device and using it to unboil an egg.
The device can also be used to slice CNTs accurately to an average length of 170 nanometres using only water, a solvent and a laser.
It is also a simpler and cheaper process than previous methods, which resulted in random lengths that made it difficult to deliver drugs to patients and transfer electrons for solar panel manufacturing.
Flinders University PhD student Kasturi Vimalanathan, who played a key role in discovering new applications for the device, said the machines ability to cut carbon nanotubes to a similar length significantly increased the efficiency of solar cells.
“They shorten the carbon nanotubes to fit in all the chemicals so it can withstand high temperatures,” she said.
“It increases the efficiency and enhances the photoelectric conversion because they can provide a shorter transportation pathway for these electrons.
“It’s a one step method we can scale up. We can see cheaper solar panels on the back of this development.”
Here’s an image of Ralston, presumably with his Vortex Fluidic Device,
A Dec. 18, 2015 Flinders University blog posting announced Ralston’s Ig Nobel,
When Flinders University’s Professor Colin Raston unboiled an egg earlier this year with his ‘Vortex Fluidic Device’, in a feat previously considered impossible by science, he made TV screens and front pages all over the world, generating a veritable tsunami of ‘eggscellent’ puns.
The global impact of his achievement transformed the softly spoken South Australia Premier’s Professorial Research Fellow in Clean Technology into an internationally recognised figure overnight – and culminated in him receiving a prestigious Ig Nobel prize in September .
In recognition of the massive amount of attention Professor Raston’s achievement received for Australian research, it has today been hailed as one of the top ten weird and wonderful Australian science stories of 2015 by the Australian Science and Media Centre (AusSMC).
Responding to the announcement, Professor Raston said he had been thrilled with the response to his achievement and had been ‘living the dream’ since.
“We were very interested in how the Vortex Fluidic Device might control protein folding, and the breakthrough with my collaborator at UCI, Greg Weiss, simplifies this, in a fraction of the time, minimising waste generation and energy usage. What this amounted to was unboiling an egg,” he said.
Who would have thought a device for unboiling eggs could be used to cut carbon nanotubes? Clearly, Kasturi Vimalanathan. Amazing.
For anyone interested and/or unfamiliar with the Ig Nobel prizes, there’s my Sept. 17, 2013 posting.