Carbon Nanotubes

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Carbon Nanotubes

Carbon Nanotubes


Carbon nanotubes are one of the most commonly mentioned building blocks of nanotechnology. With one hundred times the tensile strength of steel, thermal conductivity better than all but the purest diamond, and electrical conductivity similar to copper, but with the ability to carry much higher currents, they seem to be a wonder material. However, when we hear of some companies planning to produce hundreds of tons per year, while others seem to have extreme difficulty in producing grams, there is clearly more to this material than meets the eye.

In fact nanotubes come in a variety of flavors: long, short, single-walled, multi-walled, open, closed, with different types of spiral structure, etc. Each type has specific production costs and applications. Some have been produced in large quantities for years while others are only now being produced commercially with decent purity and in quantities greater than a few grams. In this brief white paper we hope to resolve some of the confusion surrounding what may be one of the most significant new materials since plastics.

The term nanotube is normally used to refer to the carbon nanotube, which has received enormous attention from researchers over the last few years and promises, along with close relatives such as the nanohorn, a host of interesting applications. There are many other types of nanotube, from various inorganic kinds, such as those made from boron nitride, to organic ones, such as those made from self-assembling cyclic peptides (protein components) or from naturally-occurring heat shock proteins (extracted from bacteria that thrive in extreme environments). However, carbon nanotubes excite the most interest, promise the greatest variety of applications, and currently appear to have by far the highest commercial potential

A one dimensional fullerene (a convex cage of atoms with only hexagonal and/or pentagonal faces) with a cylindrical shape. Carbon nanotubes discovered in 1991 by Sumio Iijima resemble rolled up graphite, although they can not really be made that way. Depending on the direction that the tubes appear to have been rolled (quantified by the 'chiral vector'), they are known to act as conductors or semiconductors. Nanotubes are a proving to be useful as molecular components for nanotechnology.

Strictly speaking, any tube with nanoscale dimensions, but generally used to refer to carbon nanotubes, which are sheets of graphite rolled up to make a tube. A commonly mentioned non-carbon variety is made of boron nitride, another is silicon. These noncarbon nanotubes are most often referred to as nanowires. The dimensions are variable (down to 0.4 nm in diameter) and you can also get nanotubes within nanotubes, leading to a distinction between multi-walled and single-walled nanotubes. Apart from remarkable tensile strength, nanotubes exhibit varying electrical properties (depending on the way the graphite structure spirals around the tube, and other factors, such as doping), and can be superconducting, insulating, semiconducting or conducting (metallic). [CMP]

Nanotubes can be either electrically conductive or semiconductive, depending on their helicity, leading to nanoscale wires and electrical components. These one-dimensional fibers exhibit electrical conductivity as high as ...
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