The special nature of carbon combines with the molecular perfection of single-wall CNTs to endow them with exceptional material properties, such as very high electrical and thermal conductivity, strength, stiffness, and toughness. No other element in the periodic table bonds to itself in an extended network with the strength of the carbon-carbon bond. The delocalized pi-electron donated by each atom is free to move about the entire structure, rather than remain with its donor atom, giving rise to the first known molecule with metallic-type electrical conductivity. Furthermore, the high-frequency carbon-carbon bond vibrations provide an intrinsic thermal conductivity higher than even diamond.
In most materials, however, the actual observed material properties – strength, electrical conductivity, etc. – are degraded very substantially by the occurrence of defects in their structure. For example, high-strength steel typically fails at only about 1% of its theoretical breaking strength. CNTs, however, achieve values very close to their theoretical limits because of their molecular perfection of structure. This aspect is part of the unique story of CNTs.
CNTs are an example of true nanotechnology: they are only about a nanometer in diameter, but are molecules that can be manipulated chemically and physically in very useful ways. They open an incredible range of applications in materials science, electronics, chemical processing, energy management, and many other fields.
The properties of nanotubes are certainly amazing; in the last few years, many studies have suggested potential applications of CNTs and have shown innumerable applications that could be promising when these newly determined materials are combined with typical products. Production of nanorods using CNTs as reacting templates.
Applications for nanotubes encompass many fields and disciplines such as medicine, nanotechnology, manufacturing, construction, electronics, and so on. The following application can be noted: high-strength composites, actuators, energy storage and energy conversion devices, nanoprobes and sensors, hydrogen storage media, electronic devices, and catalysis.
The applications of CNTs in the biomedical industry exclusively. Before use of carbon nanotube in biological and biomedical environments, there are three barriers which must be overcome: functionalization, pharmacology, and toxicity of CNTs. One of the main disadvantages of carbon nanotubes is the lack of solubility in aqueous media, and to overcome this problem, scientists have been modifying the surface of CNTs, i.e., functionalization with different hydrophilic molecules and chemistries that improve the water solubility and biocompatibility of CNT.
Another barrier with carbon nanotube is the biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of nanoparticles which are affected by many physicochemical characteristics such as shape, size, chemical composition, aggregation, solubility surface, and fictionalization. Studies have shown that water-soluble CNTs are biocompatible with the body fluids and do not any toxic side effects or mortality.
CNTs are the best known field emitters of any material. This is understandable, given their high electrical conductivity, and the incredible sharpness of their tip (because the smaller the tip’s radius of curvature, the more concentrated will be an electric field, leading to increased field emission; this is the same reason lightning rods are sharp). The sharpness of the tip also means that they emit at especially low voltage, an important fact for building low-power electrical devices that utilize this feature. CNTs can carry an astonishingly high current density, possibly as high as 1013 A/cm2. Furthermore, the current is extremely stable. An immediate application of this behavior receiving considerable interest is in field-emission flat-panel displays. Instead of a single electron gun, as in a traditional cathode ray tube display, in CNT-based displays there is a separate electron gun (or even many of them) for each individual pixel in the display. Their high current density, low turn-on and operating voltages, and steady, long-lived behavior make CNTs very attractive field emitters in this application. Other applications utilizing the field-emission characteristics of CNTs include general types of low-voltage cold-cathode lighting sources, lightning arrestors, and electron microscope sources.
CNTs have the intrinsic characteristics desired in material used as electrodes in batteries and capacitors, two technologies of rapidly increasing importance. CNTs have a tremendously high surface area (~1000 m2/g), good electrical conductivity, and very importantly, their linear geometry makes their surface highly accessible to the electrolyte.
Research has shown that CNTs have the highest reversible capacity of any carbon material for use in lithium-ion batteries. In addition, CNTs are outstanding materials for super capacitor electrodes) and are now being marketed for this application.
Application Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes in a variety of fuel cell components. They have a number of properties, including high surface area and thermal conductivity, which make them useful as electrode catalyst supports in PEM fuel cells. They may also be used in gas diffusion layers, as well as current collectors, because of their high electrical conductivity. CNTs’ high strength and toughness-to-weight characteristics may also prove valuable as part of composite components in fuel cells that are deployed in transport applications, where durability is extremely important.
The same properties that make CNTs attractive as conductive fillers for use in electromagnetic shielding, ESD materials, etc., make them attractive for electronics packaging and interconnection applications, such as adhesives, potting compounds, and coaxial cables and other types of connectors.
The new ceramic material is far tougher than conventional ceramics, conducts electricity and can both conduct heat and act as a thermal barrier, depending on the orientation of the nanotubes.
Ceramic materials are very hard and resistant to heat and chemical attack, making them useful for applications such as coating turbine blades, but they are also very brittle. The researchers mixed powdered alumina (aluminum oxide) with 5 to 10 percent carbon nanotubes and a further 5 percent finely milled niobium. These materials treated the mixture with an electrical pulse in a process called spark-plasma sintering. This process consolidates ceramic powders more quickly and at lower temperatures than conventional processes.
The new material has up to five times the fracture toughness — resistance to cracking under stress — of conventional alumina. The material shows electrical conductivity seven times that of previous ceramics made with nanotubes. It also has interesting thermal properties, conducting heat in one direction, along the alignment of the nanotubes, but reflecting heat at right angles to the nanotubes, making it an attractive material for thermal barrier coatings.
Carbon nanotube based polymer composites are many times stronger and yet lighter in weight than steel and replacing the metals in the aircraft’s structures and thus reducing the fuel consumption. Carbon nanotube based coatings and paints are finding use in radar absorbing materials as well as to help airplanes avoid accidents due to the lightning strike. Carbon nanotubes are one billionth of meter in diameter. Our hair is 70,000 times thicker than a carbon nanotube which is an amazingly powerful material having excellent electrical, mechanical and thermal properties.
Application Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes based polymer composites are finding applications to make various components of an automobile car including but not limited to: headlight mirror coatings, side trims, door inners, body panels, engine cover, inverter cover, timing belt cover and tyres. Carbon nanotubes based composites are finding use in high performance tyres with less weight and better fuel efficiency, better durability and having higher grip to the road than traditional carbon black based tyres.
There is a wealth of other potential applications for CNTs, such as solar collection; nanoporous filters; catalyst supports; and coatings of all sorts. There are almost certainly many unanticipated applications for this remarkable material that will come to light in the years ahead, and which may prove to be the most important and valuable ones of all. Many researchers are looking into conductive and or water proof paper made with CNTs. CNTs have also been shown to absorb Infrared light and may have applications in the I/R Optics Industry.
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