I watched a couple of very fascinating videos about nanotubes and how they’re created. In the first I watched, Rice University is creating spools of nanotube thread by streaming a carbon solution with the consistency of mayonnaise through syphonic acid. In the other video, they were baking a carbon-based solution in 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, which created a nanotube forest. Both videos were intriguing. So, what are nanotubes?
Nanotubes are molecular tubes of carbon atoms which have bonded chemically together. Imagine honeycomb rolled into a tube, or better yet, chicken wire tubes. The carbon atoms attach to other carbon atoms creating hexagonal space in between. As they wrap around and bond to each other in a tube-like fashion, they make a structure that is both very tiny and very strong (Nova: Carbon Nanotubes, 2011). Another benefit of these structures is they allow electricity to flow through them, so they act as a conductor (Spinning nanotube fibers at Rice University, 2013). While all of this is interesting, it may not mean much to the average citizen until you start considering why it makes a difference.
We currently have access to metals like copper, gold, and silver which conduct electricity. We already have access to steel, which is the standard bearer for what is considered strong. Why do we need these carbon nanotubes? Why will it make a difference? These nanotubes have the capability of miniaturizing electronics as well as strengthening products which previously used metal. You’ve likely heard of carbon fiber. This is it! It’s super lightweight and is as strong as steel, even in very tiny sizes. Not only that, carbon is very abundant on this planet. Consider that every breath you put out contains carbon.
The breakthrough of nanotube technology will be fruitful, likely beyond what we understand right now. Oil has been paramount in creating many wonderful things around us from lipstick to fuel. I think that carbon nanotube technology will continue to help miniaturization and strengthening of products all around us very soon. This is all came about from the understanding of the molecular structure and how carbon atoms are attracted to other carbon atoms-Exciting!
Nova: Carbon Nanotubes. (2011). Retrieved from
Spinning nanotube fibers at Rice University. (2013). Retrieved from
I wrote this paper a few years ago, but the principles still stand. I hope you enjoyed it!
What would you make if you had a lot of these nanotube fibers? Blue jeans? Rope?