Carbon Nanotubes

Scientists discovered that if you can make buckyballs big enough, they could become carbon cylinders called carbon nanotubes. Carbon nan-otubes are long, thin cylinders of carbon molecules. A carbon nanotube is a completely different material from either diamond or graphite.

Some Carbon Forms

Figure 4.2 Carbon Forms. (Courtesy of Jeff Dixon)

Side Carbon Nanotube Front

Figure 4.2 Carbon Forms. (Courtesy of Jeff Dixon)

Sumio Iijima, of NEC Corporation came upon carbon nanotubes in 1991 in Tsukuba, Japan, while researching buckyballs using an electron microscope. The carbon nanotubes he discovered can be visualized as a two-dimensional sheet of graphite. The arrangement of carbon atoms into a hexagonal lattice is called "graphene," because it has the form of a graphite sheet rolled into a cylinder. The nanotube looks like a rolled-up piece of chicken wire.

Carbon nanotubes have unique properties that make them potentially useful in a wide variety of applications such as in nanoelectronics, optics, and materials applications. They exhibit extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties, and are efficient conductors of heat.

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