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Rice University Improving Coaxial Cables


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Researchers at Rice University are developing a carbon nanotube coating that will drastically reduce the weight of coaxial cables.

This new development could cut the weight of the cables in half. Aerospace and military users will see this as a huge weight off the users’ shoulders if the things were no longer so heavy. Despite their usefulness, one of the most common complaints about them over the years was how bulky they were.

There are four different parts types needed to make a coaxial cable: an outer conductor, a polymer jacket, an electrically insulating polymer sheath, and a conductive copper core. The new cable will instead implement a coating made out of chlorosulfonic acid and carbon nanotubes. This will take the place of the outer conductor that is made out of tin – the part that sends out the signal and protects the cable from electromagnetic interference.

The heaviest part of most coaxial cables is the braided metal conductor. If it is replaced with the lightweight nanotube, it would eliminate approximately ninety-seven percent of its mass.

Performance will not be sacrificed with the lighter cables, either. These cables have long been necessary for transmitting all sorts of information. To test out their abilities, researchers made three different prototypes with various thicknesses for the coating. The thickest one was able to handle 10,000 bending cycles without any signs of a dip in performance. The 90-Micron cable successfully met military grade standards for shielding as well.

“This is one of the few cases where you can have your cake and eat it, too,” said professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry at Rice Dr. Matteo Pasquali, “We obtained better processing and improved performance.”

With the lighter cables looking to be a viable option now, researcher will now turn their attention to improving speed of production.


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