Carbon Nanotubes applications and its Properties

Carbon is an ever-present mineral. From our body to our environment and even our primary fuel source is carbon-based. Carbon is also one of the most useful metals known to man today. Out of the numerous forms that carbon used today, the carbon nanotubes are by far the most promising and versatile.

How is Carbon Nanotubes formed?

The carbon nanotube is one of an allotropic form of carbon. As these naturally form in a tubular nanostructure, these called as ‘nanotubes.’ The unique cylindrical formation of carbon molecules gives it peculiar properties. These properties are found to be most viable in the electronics, optics, nanotechnology, as well as other material science and technology industries, for applications of carbon nanotubes.

Properties of Carbon Nanotubes

Physical – Carbon nanotubes are inherently stronger than other modern materials, giving it extreme stiffness and strength. These have been successfully developed to a record-breaking length-diameter ratio of over 132,000,000:1, stronger than most other most durable materials.

Electrical – The unique cylindrical structure of a nanotube of carbon is a highly effective electrical conductor. The atypical form of molecular bond between the carbon molecules in this allows almost entirely unhindered electrical transmission.

Thermal – A carbon nanotube is also inherently a better conductor of heat. It can outperform many other popular conventional thermal conductors in use today.

Other Properties of Carbon Nanotubes

These are some of the other significant properties of carbon nanotubes that make it such a promising material in numerous industries:

Higher elasticity – Carbon nanotube can successfully elongate to over 18% of its original length.

Higher tensile strength – Apart from being incredibly strong, a carbon nanotube is also highly malleable. You can easily bend a carbon nanotube to a great extent, without damaging it.

Thermal expansion co-efficient – Carbon nanotube has a significantly lower thermal expansion coefficient than other materials.

Applications of Carbon Nanotubes

These are some of the present and potential applications of carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes used as:

Thermal Conductors – As a carbon nanotube has a surprisingly high tolerance for heat, it considered as an adequate replacement for modern thermal conducting materials.  Being polymers of pure carbon, carbon nanotubes can be easily fabricated using the unique bonding properties of carbon molecules. It is highly feasible to change their structure and optimize their solubility and dispersion powers.

Field Emission Technology – A carbon nanotube, thanks to excellent electrical conductivity and tapered end-point, has a significantly lower voltage emission. The growing electrical field, results in increased field emission. Currently, this property utilized in making field-emission flat-panel displays.

Apart from this, the other applications of carbon nanotubes as field emission devices include low-voltage, cold-cathode light sources, and even in electron microscopes and as lightning resistors.

Conductive Plastic – Plastic has generally been viewed as a replacement for metal. However, when a structure needs to be active as well as electrically conductive, then using plastic does not make the mark, as they are perfect electrical insulators.

Although with specific conductive additions (such as large graphite fibers and carbon black) during fabrication, the plastic can be made quite conductive to electricity, it makes the device remarkably more cumbersome too. To overcome this, the highest aspect ratio of carbon nanotubes amongst carbon fibers makes them perfect for use as additives in building robust and sufficiently electrically conductive devices.

Energy Storage – The unique electrical properties of a carbon nanotube make it a capable replacement for conventional materials used to make capacitors and batteries. As these are two of the most vital and fastest-growing industries, the applications of carbon nanotubes in energy storage are set to revolutionize portable power solutions.

Apart from these, the higher thermal conductivity and larger surface area of a carbon nanotube make it ideal as an electrode catalyst in making PEM fuel cells. The use of this material as a composite for components will make energy storage more efficient and lighter for transporting.

Conductive Connectors and Adhesives

As this material is perfect for applications in electromagnetic shielding, as ESD material, etc., this also makes it suitable for interconnection applications. Apart from this, the material can also use in making co-axial cables, adhesives, in potting compounds, and other forms of connectors.

These are the top applications of carbon nanotubes for today and in the coming decade. Immense research is still underway globally to study its unusual properties in depth and find feasible, practical applications for it.