A previous process that was invented at Rice University to chemically unzip carbon nanotubes into graphene nanoribbons has been improved without the use the chemicals. Materials scientist, Pulickel Ajayan, discovered when nanotubes are shot at a target, and hitting broadside, the nanotubes unzip into ribbons.
Once the nanotubes are turned into graphene ribbons, they can be used in composite materials to increase strength, and in applications that boast the electrical properties of the ribbons. The process was tested in a laboratory and confirmed through molecular simulations. The laboratory testing used pellets of randomly oriented, multiwalled carbon nanotubes that were fired from a light gas gun to hit an aluminum target in a vacuum chamber. If the nanotubes hit the target end first, they were crushed; when they hit the target lengthwise, the nanotubes split into ribbons with ragged edges. This new unzipping process will eliminate the need to remove chemical residues from nanoribbons when they are produced through the current technique.