Carbon nanotube discovered in 1991, is another form in which carbon exists in physical world just like graphite and diamond. It discovery holds significant importance for its wonderful properties that can be exploited and their many uses along with it.
A carbon nanotube or CNT is a cylindrical arrangement of carbon atoms, which can be 1 atom thick called ‘single walled’ or even multi-walled or multi-atom thick like double or triple or multi-walled depending upon usages. This material boasts of several properties that have usages in electronics, optics, material science and nanotechnology fields.
The carbon nanotube structure is noted for extreme strength and stiffness while being very tensile and elastic. A single strand of CNT can be as long as 40 meters. They also have excellent thermal conductivity and act as a semi-conductor too.
They are usually made as rolled up graphene sheets, which resemble a straw. Their most particular usage as of now is structural reinforcement, where they add to the strength of a structure such as concrete or carbon fiber items.
Recent applications, have used CNT as an additive in epoxy resins for 30% in industrial applications such as wind turbines. They are also used increasingly in sports gear, which makes the equipment lighter and stronger in comparison to other material of similar weight.
Recent advances in research have tried other potential usages of carbon nanotubes, such as use in solar cells to prevent their degradation, to harness heat from sunlight, and in computer chip technology. Recently CNT has also been spun into a yarn, which can replace copper as a conducting material or wire in winding in motors. Future potential usage also includes using them as supercapacitors in the storage of energy.
With lots of potential usages also comes the concern of any adverse effects of the health of humans. Some research has happened in this regard, while most of it is inconclusive as the carbon nanotubes are mostly inert in regular applications, but the accidental breathing of carbon nanotubes can lead to brain damage.