Inventive materials: carbon nanotubes

Lightweight, strong and versatile, carbon nanotubes could revolutionise almost any material

The discovery of carbon nanotubes in 1991 opened up a new era in materials science. These incredible molecules have an array of fascinating electronic, magnetic and mechanical properties. They are at least 100 times stronger than steel, but only one-sixth as heavy – so nanotube fibres could strengthen just about any material.

In addition, nanotubes can conduct heat and electricity far better than copper, and they are already being used in polymers to adjust conductivity and in antistatic packaging.

Lead image:

EMSL/Flickr CC BY NC

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Nanoscience’ in June 2005 and reviewed and updated in August 2014.

Topic:
Biotechnology and engineering
Issue:
Nanoscience
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development