Nanocarpets — that is, carpets of carbon nanotubes — are undergoing development as means of trapping microscopic particles for scientific analysis. Examples of such particles include inorganic particles, pollen, bacteria, and spores. Nanocarpets can be characterized as scaled-down versions of ordinary macroscopic floor carpets, which trap dust and other particulate matter, albeit not purposefully. Nanocarpets can also be characterized as mimicking both the structure and the particle-trapping behavior of ciliated lung epithelia, the carbon nanotubes being analogous to cilia (see figure).

Microscopic Particles (Bacillus pumilis spores) were trapped on a nanocarpet by immersing the nanocarpet in a spore-containing solution, then drying the nanocarpet.

Carbon nanotubes can easily be chemically functionalized for selective trapping of specific particles of interest. One could, alternatively, use such other three dimensionally structured materials as aerogels and activated carbon for the purposeful trapping of microscopic particles. However, nanocarpets offer important advantages over these alternative materials:

  • Nanocarpets are amenable to nonintrusive probing by optical means; and
  • Nanocarpets offer greater surface-to volume ratios.

This work was done by Flavio Noca, Fei Chen, Brian Hunt, Michael Bronikowski, Michael Hoenk, Robert Kowalczyk, and Daniel Choi of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Materials category. In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Innovative Technology Assets Management
Mail Stop 202-233
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
(818) 354-2240
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to NPO-30659, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
(NANO) Nanocarpet for Trapping Microscopic Particles

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This article first appeared in the December, 2004 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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