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Science Technology

New Threadlike Carbon Nanotube Fiber Unveiled 171

Zothecula writes "At about 100 times the strength of steel and a sixth the weight, with impressive electrical conductive properties, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have promised much since their discovery in 1991. The problem has been translating their impressive nanoscale properties into real-world applications on the macro scale. Researchers have now unveiled a new CNT fiber that conducts heat and electricity like a metal wire, is very strong like carbon fiber, and is flexible like a textile thread."
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New Threadlike Carbon Nanotube Fiber Unveiled

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @12:45PM (#42582589)

    They'd never allow it.

  • Re:How strong? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:06PM (#42582841) Journal

    Another question, what happens if you expose these to a camera flash? []

  • Re:How strong? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kaiser423 ( 828989 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:08PM (#42582877)

    The article mentions that it still has incredibly high textile strength, and shows a small fiber holding up a light (not much, but still).

    I think that cost would scale down well since it's very similar to other material handling.

    Right now, a large part of the cost and problems with data cables are the really thin wires -- we'd like them to be thinner, but can't make them any thinner without making the cable too brittle. I purposely buy extra-thick data cables merely to reduce problems in the field due to flex. If these flex well, that's a huge boon.....but then, do these survive soldering or crimping? Or am I going to have to teach my techs to sew?

  • *cough* (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:18PM (#42583005)

  • Re:Awesome! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:23PM (#42583071)

    When do we start building the space elevator?

    When we can consistently produce defect-free carbon nanotubes in much longer lengths than is currently possible. Space elevators require near the upper end of CN theoretical tensile strength.
    Bolos, Skyhooks and Rotovators on the other hand...

  • Re:Awesome! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:27PM (#42583107)

    Build a lunar one first with off the shelf Kevlar. []

  • Re:How strong? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:39PM (#42583249)

    Actually, in the Earth's crust, aluminum is more common than carbon by a factor of about 200. Only oxygen and silicon are more common. Source. []

    Talk to a chemEng about the nightmare of aluminium refining. Its not just that the hall process takes a lot of electricity mostly from burning coal, but it only works with alumina. You gotta run raw bauxite thru the Bayer process which is a whole nother PITA to pre-refine it before it hits the electrochemical cells as alumina. Most bauxite comes from Australia and Brazil, and there's only a "couple centuries worth" and then thats it for bauxite, so aside from recycling it'll be back to the old days before the Hall process where Aluminum was basically a precious metal. Aluminum really is a huge unholy pain in the ass to refine into usable metal.

    Its kinda like nitrogen. Plants REALLY need nitrogen. But we all live in a great seemingly infinite pool of nitrogen gas, you say so whats the problem. Yeah but biochemically its a PITA to use N2 straight outta the air, so it (mostly) doesn't happen. Leading to all kinds of chemEng foolishness with ammonia and nitrogen fixing bacteria on legumes etc etc.

    Having some atoms laying around doesn't mean they're convenient to use, or practical to use, or possible to use.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:46PM (#42583341)

    Single mode optical fiber is a waveguide already. Think about it...

    I would have to think for awhile about the velocity of propagation. I think Vp would be higher for a hollow (vacuum) carbon nanotube optical fiber which might be an advantage.

    I know its barely theoretically possible to make a hollow titanium sphere that is strong enough to hold a vacuum, barely, so it'll float, but not engineering practical to make it. I wonder if you could make a CNT tube that would float in the air. That would certainly reduce optical fiber costs, if you only needed a tower/pole at each end of the run, plus or minus wind forces I guess. If nothing else I think CNT optical fiber would be lighter than glass fiber, for aerospace or whatever. Pity its flammable.

  • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:50PM (#42583387)

    ... If we ever figure out how to control the structure of materials so that the strength of individual chemical bonds is preserved in bulk materials, then we would not only have stronger carbon fibers, but we would also have stronger steel.

    It is a special case, but we do have well know examples of how to do this. They are crystals, which are atomically ordered on the macroscale. The manifestation of the strength inherent in the carbon-carbon bond on the macroscale is what bestows upon diamonds their remarkable properties. Single crystal macroscopic parts are manufactured in metallurgy also (turbine blades).

  • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:52PM (#42583421)

    Whoops I forgot to explain why and only placed an imperial command, not sure how I got +5 unless you guys have ESP. The reason why is:

    Weird design with known material = Success, mostly
    Known design with weird material = Success, mostly
    Weird design with weird material = Epic Fail, mostly

    Figure out whats wrong with the design using "old fashioned" kevlar then once the design is all debugged whip out the magic threads and try a known good design with weird new material.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."