PENANG: Universiti Sains Malaysia's (USM) gold medal-winning invention of producing carbon nanotubes from natural gas can bring down the price of plasma TV sets if commercialised.
Prof Dr Abdul Rahman Mohamed, the leader of the winning team from USM’s School of Chemical Engineering, said the current market price for carbon nanotubes ranged from US$100 to US$750 (RM380 to RM2,850) per gramme.
“It cost us only US$1 (RM3.80) to produce the same amount in the laboratory. Commercially, our production method would cost less than US$5 (RM19),” he said.
Carbon nanotubes are tubular carbon clusters that are stronger than steel alloys, lighter than aluminium and have an electrical conductivity that is better than copper. These superconductors are used in flat display panels (like plasma TVs), rechargeable batteries, memory chips and biomedical applications.
Besides the gold medal, USM also won a special prize for Technical Culture-Croatia at the 33rd International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products held in Geneva, Switzerland, from April 6 to 10, for their one-step production of carbon nanotubes and hydrogen from natural gas.
“Ours is the cheapest and least toxic one-step method of producing carbon nanotubes so far,” said Prof Abdul Rahman.
Team member Dr Sharif Hussein Sharif Zein said he had stumbled upon the discovery by chance.
“I was actually looking for a way to produce hydrogen from methane when I found out about carbon nanotubes,” said Dr Sharif.
The other research team members are Chai Siang Piao and Lee Fang Yin.