Tica Scientist at NASA Furthers Nanotechnology

December 22, 2006

Many scientists get ahead by thinking big, but Jeannette Benavides’ forte is thinking small – and cheap.

The Costa Rican scientist, a 20-year employee of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the GoddardSpaceCenter in Maryland, has spent six years perfecting a method to make carbon nanotubes without using metal in the process, which allows them to be produced for only $1 per gram, according to the daily La Nación. The existing method, which uses metal as a catalyst, costs $500 per gram, a price that until now has prevented their widespread manufacture.

So what? Well, carbon nanotubes –molecules one-fiftieth the width of a human hair, made from carbon atoms, and discovered 15 years ago by Japanese engineer Sumio Iijima – can be used to create a material stronger than steel and as conducive as copper.

Possible uses include lightweight, super strong car frames, or biomedical applications, the daily reported.

NASA has patented the technology and transferred the license to Idaho Space Materials in Boise, where as much as 50 grams of nanotubes can be produced every hour. This will give scientists at dozens of research centers plenty of samples with which to evaluate the characteristics and potential uses of nanotubes.

Benavides is a graduate of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and AmericanUniversity in Washington, D.C. She told La Nación her dearest wish is that she might serve as an inspiration to other Costa Rican women to triumph in their fields.

 

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