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Atomistic fluid flow transitions
inside carbon nanotubes

R.E. Tuzun*, D.E. Newman,
D.W. Noid, B.G. Sumpter

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

This is an abstract for a poster to be presented at the
Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
There will be a link from here to the full article when it is available on the web.


The physics of fluid flow within volumes at the nanometer size scale is not well understood. Preliminary evidence suggests a possible critical transition in flows through carbon nanotubes which could take the form of a bifurcation of the flow rate as a function of pressure gradient. Such a phenomenon could be considered to be the atomistic equivalent of a transition from laminar to turbulent flow seen in "continuous" fluids. Fluid flow transitions at the nanometer size scale would have a profound impact on the design of nano-fluidic devices and structures. Simple heuristic models for these phenomena could help accelerate and direct the design of devices and structures whose operation depends on nanometer scale flow transitions.

Results of molecular dynamics simulations of the flow of hydrogen inside carbon nanotubes are reported. The nanotube is clamped at the ends and hydrogen molecules recycled as they reach the end of the nanotube. To simulate a pressure gradient, the axial velocities of the hydrogen molecules are set to a fixed value as they recycle. In continuous fluid dynamics, the laminar/turbulent transition can be modelled as the solution to several possible sets of differential equations with bifurcating solutions above a critical velocity. The results of similar models applied to the above simulations are reported.

Research sponsored by the Division of Materials Sciences, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-96OR22464 with Lockheed-Martin Energy Research Corp.

*Corresponding Address:
Robert E. Tuzun, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Fusion Energy Division
P. O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6197
ph: 423-574-4974, fax: 423-576-5235, email:


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