Despite the frenzy of research into carbon nanotubes (CNTs) over the past few decades (see, for example, the article by Thomas Ebbesen, Physics Today, June 1996, page 26), there isn’t much experimental evidence for one of the tiny structures’ most talked-about superpowers: the ability to funnel water with nearly zero friction. The problem has been achieving the sensitivity to measure water transport rates as feeble as a femtoliter a second. Now Lydéric Bocquet and his colleagues at École Normale Supérieure in Paris have confirmed the slipperiness of CNTs by directly measuring water flow through individual nanotubes whose bores ranged from 15 nm to 50 nm. The researchers stuck a multiwalled CNT inside a small pipette and essentially turned the nanotube into the needle of a syringe. Pressure applied inside the pipette caused water to flow through the CNT and into a tank of water. Rather than tracking the...

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