Carbon nanotubes are pure carbon and have a diameter of about a millionth of a millimetre, are immensely strong, and are excellent conductors of heat and electricity. They are also resistant to radiation-induced degradation. Interest in the potential for carbon nanotubes to create a range of futuristic materials was sparked when their structure was revealed in the early 1990s.
In 2004, CSIRO’s Ken Atkinson demonstrated to researchers at the Nanotech Institute of the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) that carbon nanotubes could be twisted into a yarn in the same way as conventional fibres like wool and cotton. A partnership was formed between the two organisations to further this research.
In 2005, the CSIRO/UTD team demonstrated that synthetically made carbon nanotubes can be commercially manufactured into transparent sheets that are stronger than steel sheets of the same weight.
These carbon nanotube materials have a number of potential applications including:
- organic light emitting displays
- electronic sensors
- artificial muscles
- broad-band polarised light sources that can be switched in one ten-thousandth of a second
- high intensity filaments for light and X-ray sources
- anti-ballistic clothing
- electronic textiles
- satellite tethers
- yarns for energy storage and generation that are weavable into textiles.
- Major Award for Carbon Natotube Partners [external link]
- CSIRO – Spinning Carbon Nanotubes (2005) (video)
- Nano Tech Institute, The University of Texas at Dallas [external link]