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Large Sheets of Carbon Nanotubes Produced

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the series-of-nanotubes dept.

Science 155

StCredZero brings news that scientists have developed sheets of nanotubes that measure up to three feet by six feet, and they promise "slabs 100 square feet in area as soon as this summer." The developers see uses for the sheets in electromagnetic shields and airplane construction, and according to the Next Big Future blog, the sheets could also impact the development of solar sails. "The sheets, which the company can produce on its single machine at a rate of one per day, are composed of a series of nanotubes each about a millimeter long, overlapping each other randomly to form a thin mat. The tensile strength of the mat ranges from 200 to 500 megapascals--a measure of how tough it is to break. A sheet of aluminum of equivalent thickness, for comparison, has a strength of 500 megapascals. If Nanocomp takes further steps to align the nanotubes, the strength jumps to 1,200 megapascals."

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Awesome... (1)

JoeInnes (1025257) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616016)

But why not just use aluminium?

Re:Awesome... (2, Informative)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616034)

Probably much lighter than aluminum, for the same strength.

The question I have is, how strong could it be for the same weight? Off to rtfa...

Re:Awesome... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616042)

1. Aluminum is heavier.
2. As production capability increases CNT will be stronger.

Re:Awesome... (2, Informative)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616094)

Besides having very different properties [] from aluminum, and besides the last sentence stating that they can be upped to 1,200 megapascals; this could be considered a proof of concept. Excuse the tautology, but: as technologies develop, they improve.

Re:Awesome... (2, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616176)

One good reason is that aluminum is a limited resource. Although there's lots of it around, current estimates show that it will only last for about 200 more years ( source [] ). That may seem like quite a long time, but it probably wouldn't hurt to start investigating alternatives before we run out.

Re:Awesome... (1)

xant (99438) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616214)

Is that a good reason? What limited resource are they using to make these sheets?

Re:Awesome... (5, Funny)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616242)

Maybe the carbon nanotube sheets are made out of, oh, I don't know, carbon? Seems to me there's no shortage of that stuff..

Re:Awesome... (5, Funny)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616286)

People. Carbon nanotubes are made out of people.


Re:Awesome... (0, Offtopic)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616336)

People. Carbon nanotubes are made out of people.

And animals and plants and ... uhhh... well, there's a WHOLE lot of stuff on this planet that consists primarily of carbon. Except you. We're pretty sure you came from another planet, though.

Re:Awesome... (0)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616510)

People. Carbon nanotubes are made out of people.

Oh, come on. Am I the only one that picked up on the Soylent Green reference?

Re:Awesome... (1)

malakai (136531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617128)

Oh, come on. Am I the only one that picked up on the Soylent Green reference?

you're not.
we all got it, and thought it funny (thus the rating).

We didn't feel a need to comment on it. We were just rolling with the deadpan [] nature of the comment. Which made it even more funny. Funny like your tights Captain Obvious.

Re:Awesome... (1)

bigdavesmith (928732) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616622)

If we ever run out of carbon...

You may have a point though. I'd like to see a comparison of all of the materials/chemicals/energy that go into making a sheet of this, versus an equivalent amount of carbon fiber, or aluminum. I doubt it's as environmentally cool as I'm imagining it is.

Re:Awesome... (0)

JoeInnes (1025257) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616256)

Forgive me for being dubious about your source, but aluminium is not exactly rare, and that book doesn't exactly look like a huge seller. And actually, I'd argue that while aluminium is still plentiful, maybe we could look to feeding the third world, rather than trying to find a substance that will let us stick a whole bunch of crap up in space. *shrug* maybe I'm just a crazy left-wing nut though.

Re:Awesome... (1, Offtopic)

Gravatron (716477) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616284)

I fail to see how scientists studying this are effective scientists studying agriculture tech, or people studying how to best end the violence that consumes most of the third world in some fashion.

Re:Awesome... (2, Funny)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616314)

If we feed them, then there will be even more demand for amluminum. That sounds like a bad idea.

Re:Awesome... (2, Insightful)

brusk (135896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617094)

Yes, AND they'll want to use aluminum foil to cover the leftovers.

Re:Awesome... (5, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616272)

One good reason is that aluminum is a limited resource. Although there's lots of it around, current estimates show that it will only last for about 200 more years ( source).

I don't have a copy of that book, so can't read it in context, but I still have to call bullshit on this.

Aluminum (Aluminium for you Brits) is the most abundant metal [] in the Earth's crust. While smelting it is energy intensive, recycling it is significantly less so [] . There is so much that has already been used, and available for recycling, I can't see us running out in the next couple of centuries, if ever.

Re:Awesome... (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616526)

Yeah, not only is it abundant, but all the aluminum that gets used is still here - we're not transmuting it into lead or firing it into the sun. We'd never run out of stuff to recycle even if it wasn't so common.

Re:Awesome... (2, Informative)

kylegordon (159137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616556)

Aluminium for you Brits

Yes, sadly we weren't subjected to the spelling errors of a certain Mr Hall...

Re:Awesome... (3, Interesting)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616680)

I'm not sure who Mr. Hall is, or what he has to do with naming conventions and misspellings, but the original name for Aluminum was "Alumium", which got changed to "Aluminum", before going through a final contortion to become "Aluminium". All three versions were created by Sir Humphry Davy, a British chemist, and the process took roughly 5 years so some confusion over the "proper" spelling is understandable. The usage of Aluminum over Aluminium in the US seems largely due to the fact that Websters Dictionary stuck with his second version of the word.

Re:Awesome... (1)

Daath (225404) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618064)

Websters used aluminium. Hall used "aluminum" in some advertising, and it stuck, apparently. See the etymology on wikipedia [] ...

As with so many things... (3, Funny)

absurdist (758409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616952) Brits invented the language.

We Americans perfected it.


Re:Awesome... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617630)

Aluminum (Aluminium for you Brits)
Actually in EUnified Ingleesh version 1.0 a compromise spelling has been standardised, Aluminiminmum and will be added to dictionaries on both sides of the atlantic. However, to be compatible with current Unified English 0.9 dictionaries you should probably use Aluminiminimium for a decade or so.

Re:Awesome... (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616296) []

Aluminum makes up 8% of the Earth's crust. The earth's composition of carbon appears to be much lower, the same page shows it's 0.03% of the earth's total weight. That doesn't say much of how easy it is to collect either resource, but abundance doesn't seem to be the answer. I think it's the strength-to-weight ratio that makes carbon nanotube materials interesting, but it's still pretty expensive to make.

Re:Awesome... (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618450)

According to Wikipedia, there is 76e18 kg of carbon in the atmosphere, hydrosphere and crust. Aluminium, is roughly 8% of the crust. Just taking the lithosphere, that's 8% of 1.4e23 kg, or 1.12e22 kg. So there's 150 or so times more aluminium than carbon by weight. However, this is highly misleading, because: - Al needs to be refined, whereas the C doesn't so much. - A significant portion of the Al is in rock. Not ore, solid rock. Some of it is in oxide crystals, which you know better as gemstones. If you had a large pile of rubies or emeralds, would you try to extract the Aluminium from sapphire or ruby from it on a commercial scale? No, didn't think so. - Al is twice as heavy per Mol than C. - We use carbon for a lot more (e.g. fuel). - You need less C to make a woven nanotube sheet than the equivalent Al.

Re:Awesome... (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616388)

Although there's lots of it around, current estimates show that it will only last for about 200 more years

What the hell are you talking about? Aluminum is likely the most recycled metal on the planet. Why would we "run out" of something we re-use, and is the most abundant metal in the earths crust? It might get more expensive.. but we won't "run out".

Aluminum is plentiful, you're thinking bauxite. (2, Interesting)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616464)

Bauxite isn't even a mineral. It's just a common industrial name for a kind of rock that includes a variety of minerals and is the most efficient way to produce aluminum using existing technologies. Any clay soil contains large quantities of aluminum. When the great clay shortage hits, I'm sure we'll have plenty of advance notice.

Re:Awesome... (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618992)

Alumina is a limited resource. Aluminium is 8% of the goddamn crust, so "run out" is a question of how hard it is to extract and how worth it that is. Remember that aluminium used to be a precious metal until the electrolytic process was discovered; if there's enough money in it, it'll be extracted.

Re:Awesome... (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616224)

Aluminum is heavier and less abundant than carbon is, and I suspect these sheets are flexible whereas aluminum is rigid. Also, as someone else pointed out, for the same weight these sheets would be many times stronger than aluminum.

Re:Awesome... (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616232)

Because aluminum weighs twice as much?


Ballistic carbon computing (4, Interesting)

Prysorra (1040518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616020)

Rudimentary quantum computing can be done with the ballistic nature of how electrons flow through a sheet of graphene, or in this case, a carbon nanotube. Expect to see computing related articles.

If you don't understand what it mean to say that electrons move in a "ballistic" manner through these nanotubes, imagine that cool trick your math teach showed you in high school with marbles and pegs making a bell curve. Now imagine being able to change the outcome by removing a lot of peg, and then making your computer understand the results.

Re:Ballistic carbon computing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616548)

Interesting that a post so full of buzz-word bull shit gets modded "informative". Did anyone actually read this post and see that it is completely made up? It came out of someone's bull shit generator.

Re:Ballistic carbon computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618020)

The article is not about graphene. They made a kind of felt out nano tubes.

Mistake in Article? (1)

myrdos2 (989497) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616038)

So, on average even aluminum is stronger than this material? Aluminum is a very soft metal. It must be a mistake in the article...

Re:Mistake in Article? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616188)

Perhaps aluminum is soft among metals and ceramics, but a large sheet of carbon with this kind of tensile strength is pretty novel.

Re:Mistake in Article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616244)

Mistake? Perhaps. I would have given the strength of a sheet in Newton per metre, rather than Newton per metre squared (= Pascal).

Re:Mistake in Article? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616252)

Aluminum is a very soft metal.

Precisely; aluminium is a very ductile [] material, hence its high tensile strength.

See also: []

Re:Mistake in Article? (4, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616586)

tensile strength != toughness. And, unfortunately, aluminum is not particularly ductile. At least, not when compared to, say, steel.

But aluminum does have a very good strength to weight ratio. Also, it doesn't rust. Instead it forms an oxide layer which prevents further oxidation.

Re:Mistake in Article? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616288)

so basically it will have to compete with Balsa wood and Stika Spruce.

Re:Mistake in Article? (2, Informative)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616420)

Pure aluminum is soft, aircraft grade aluminum (and virtually all aluminum used in the real world) is alloyed with other elements, greatly increasing its strength.

Here's [] a breakdown of the composition of Aluminum Alloy 6061 to give you an idea...

Series of Tubes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616046)

composed of a series of nanotubes

Wait, hold on... I thought we were talking about the internet... ?

Re:Series of Tubes (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616364)

Wait, hold on... I thought we were talking about the internet... ?

We are. An Internet for bacteria.

Re:Series of Tubes (1)

westcoast philly (991705) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616544)

no... the NANOnet. It's a nanoseries of nanotubes.
just make sure they don't get nano-clogged.

Forget electromagnetic shielding (2, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616052)

If this stuff is as strong as aluminum, why aren't we using it to actually build things like cars and buildings?

Has anyone leaked the details of how their process works beyond the little 'teaser' in the article? Could it be scaled down to personal size? Im thinking it would be great to add their process to a home 3D printer.

Re:Forget electromagnetic shielding (5, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616142)

If this stuff is as strong as aluminum, why aren't we using it to actually build things like cars and buildings?

Because they are just learning how to create and manipulate such materials? Your question is like a bronze age smith who knows that small bits of iron can be found and worked saying "How come we haven't replaced bronze with this stuff yet?" It's an engineering challenge is all. As production techniques improve it will be easier and cheaper to make.

Also, note that it's just the tensile strength that is comparable to aluminum. They said nothing about it's shear strength or rigidity.

Re:Forget electromagnetic shielding (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616212)

Exactly. They can produce 1, 3 foot by 6 foot sheets per day. Granted they could create more machines, and have more companies producing it, but at current rates, it would take far too long to produce anywhere near the necessary amount to be able to use this in commercial applications.

Re:Comparable thickness? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616278)

Correct me if I am wrong, but megapascals [MPa] is a unit of stress, therefore that number is already independent of cross-sectional area or 'thickness' of the material. Also, for comparison note that Kevlar's yield strength is ~3600 MPa.

Re:Forget electromagnetic shielding (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616404)

or it's fatigue characteristics.

Re:Forget electromagnetic shielding (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616474)

"Carbon nanotubes are the strongest and stiffest materials on earth, in terms of tensile strength and elastic modulus respectively. This strength results from the covalent sp bonds formed between the individual carbon atoms. In 2000, a multi-walled carbon nanotube was tested to have a tensile strength of 63 gigapascals (GPa). Since carbon nanotubes have a low density for a solid of 1.3-1.4 g/cm,[17] its specific strength of up to 48,000 kNm/kg is the best of known materials, compared to high-carbon steel's 154 kNm/kg.

Under excessive tensile strain, the tubes will undergo plastic deformation, which means the deformation is permanent. This deformation begins at strains of approximately 5% and can increase the maximum strain the tube undergoes before fracture by releasing strain energy.

CNTs are not nearly as strong under compression. Because of their hollow structure and high aspect ratio, they tend to undergo buckling when placed under compressive, torsional or bending stress."

-Thanks wikipedia! Looks like carbon nanotubes are really strong.

Re:Forget electromagnetic shielding (2, Informative)

Azarael (896715) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616280)

The property mentioned in the article is only covers one property of the material. Different types of Carbon Fiber are already being used for sports car bodies, bicycles and countless other things. In the case of bicycles, yes carbon fiber allows you to create a light frame, but from what I understand, aluminum frames are still stiffer, more shock absorbent, more durable and most importantly, more cost effective. Until carbon materials can match aluminum in these properties, and in cost effectiveness, aluminum isn't going anywhere.

Re:Forget electromagnetic shielding (4, Informative)

kuhneng (241514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616418)

For bikes, aluminum frames are certainly stiffer, but they're substantially less shock absorbing.

One of the reasons carbon fiber is used is the ability to choose different properties on different axes. Many cyclists want a frame that absorbs road vibration (longitudinally flexible) while being as stiff as possible laterally to transmit pedaling force efficiently and maneuver aggressively.

Re:Forget electromagnetic shielding (1)

hughperkins (705005) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617430)

Currently, the main target uses are electrical. From the article:

"So what do you do with the stuff once you've made it? Antoinette says the sheets would be particularly good for shielding electronic components from electromagnetic interference. He's talked to manufacturers of cell phones and PDAs who are looking at the material as something they could use to build handsets that are less vulnerable to the noise from stray transmissions. It might also make a nice housing for a computer, with aligned nanotubes acting as an antenna for wireless connections and randomly oriented nanotubes protecting the computer from electrical surges, while the material also dissipates heat from the processor."

Space elevator? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616064)

Could a space elevator be built using this material?

Re:Space elevator? (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616814)

No. CNTs are only strong in one direction, and you need at least two directions for a space elevator. If you tried, it would crumple or fall over.

Not necessarily (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616932)

First off, they might only have great tensile strength in one direction, but in this case they are randomly oriented. So the measured tensile strength of the sheet should apply in any direction. But that is probably not relevant to a space elevator anyway, because:

A space elevator does not "stand" on the ground, bearing all that weight. Rather, the space end is at sufficient distance to PULL it up (considerably higher than synchronous-orbit height). The elevator is under tension, not compression. And the vast majority of that tension is in one direction!

Re:Not necessarily (1)

ruinevil (852677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617202)

Pull it up towards what? Gravity is the attraction between two points in mass. If there is no closer or heavier body of mass, the weight will still be towards the earth, though it will be weaker at the top.

Duh (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617484)

Pulled up toward the mass well above the synchronous orbit altitude, by centrifugal force, not gravitational force.

Re:Not necessarily (1)

Nullav (1053766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617492)

With the planet spinning, wouldn't the elevator be more or less slung outwards, in effect 'pulling' it at the area least influenced by the Earth's gravity?

Re:Space elevator? (1)

ruinevil (852677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617170)

If you can make CNT sheets with the CNT aligned in one uniform direction, you could alternate the orientation of the sheets and glue them together ala plywood.

Toughness is not strength! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616074)

Toughness, tensile strength, compressive strength, shear strength, fatigue strength (in tension/compression/shear) and a number of other properties are all different.

Does Ted Stevens know about this? (3, Funny)

longacre (1090157) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616080)

Conceivably now a big truck AND the Internet could be fabricated out of a series of tubes [] !

Re:Does Ted Stevens know about this? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616102)

Conceivably now a big truck AND the Internet could be fabricated out of a series of tubes!
And shielding to protect us from simile overload!

Re:Does Ted Stevens know about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617342)

That was not funny.

Tagged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22616106)


Didn't nanotubes explode with flash photography? (1)

tassii (615268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616128)

Do we really want an airplane that will explode if some coherent light hits it?

Re:Didn't nanotubes explode with flash photography (2, Interesting)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616432)

It seems you're correct correct [] - do you suppose they've gotten around this?

Re:Didn't nanotubes explode with flash photography (2, Informative)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616486)

First off, they don't explode all at once, they explode tube by tube and the explosions are very small. It takes a fairly powerful direct laser strike to cause this to happen. I.E. a hand-held laser pointed at a plane will be about as useful as shooting a BB gun at it.

Second... I guess you've never heard of... paint.

And finally... not all carbon nanotubes are created equally.


Availibility (5, Interesting)

UDGags (756537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616138)

(First off I work in this area) I know one we have tried purchasing these sheets in the past a couple time and have not been able to. They might be able to make them but the availability is still very low for any research or products.

i want one (5, Funny)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616148)

to replace my tinfoil hat...

Price tag ?? (1)

nicolas.bouthors (243330) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616204)

I didn't see any price tag in the article. Everything depends now on that I guess. If it comes cheap then horray, to infinity and beyond we go !

Too early for a price... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617762)

At one sheet per day, in a startup? Figure the annual burn of the company and divide by 365.

Re:Too early for a price... (1)

epine (68316) | more than 6 years ago | (#22619038)

One sheet *per machine* per day. Does the FA say they have only one machine?

Most software startups have a lot less than one sheet per day to show for themselves during the pilot phase, unless you're counting bug reports, incomplete features, or functionality postponements.

MacBook (3, Funny)

ack_call (870944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616264)

I want my next MacBook to be made out of this stuff.

Re:MacBook (1)

garlicbready (846542) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616868)

How about a flying car, with an embedded macbook all made of this stuff?

bah where's my orbital elevator damnit!

Re:MacBook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617266)

A beowulf cluster of flying cars with embedded macbooks made of carbon nanotubes.

Hydrogen storage (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616328)

I'm much more excited about the possibilities for hydrogen storage rather than new construction material.

Poke around a bit and see what I mean. []

Re:Hydrogen storage (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616720)

hydrogen wont do consumers much good unless someone finds a way to extract it economically enough and in mass quantities to replace gasoline (for automobiles)...

Hmmmm. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616974)

So, we have to have a way to produce h2 economically, which is normally just stripping it from natural gas and then releasing CO2. Assuming that we can find a cheap way to split water (which we do not have yet), then you have the issue of conversion. Assume a ICE for this. Basically, you have the same damnable low efficency of a gas or diesel ICE. Of course, we can do Fuel cells, but they are expensive and require constant maintenence. All in all, by the time that these systems come about, The world will be on electric cars and trucks. As it is, white star, the volt, and hopefully a GM adopted version of Telsa will be making the rounds by 2010. At that point, few will want something as inefficient as hydrogen.

mass (2, Interesting)

overcaffein8d (1101951) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616438)

A sheet of aluminum of equivalent thickness, for comparison, has a strength of 500 megapascals.
Thickness, yes, but what about mass?

Re:mass (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616572)

Indeed. When comparing materials based on the maximum tensile stress (pulling), knowing the thickness is about as useful as knowing what the tester had for breakfast. Stress is defined as {force}/{cross-sectional area}.

Btw having read the article, I can definitely say that, in a company of engineers the interviewer has managed to find the one person fluent in marketing-speak.

Re:mass (2, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617598)

density of carbon nanotubes: 2.6 grams/cm^3 density of aluminum: ~2.7 grams/cm^3 mass=density*volume and assuming the shapes are the same and thickness is the same, so is the volume and in this case nanotubes are slightly less dense than aluminum therfore less mass, and therefore lighter.

Re:mass (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617798)

hmm, if I compare how carbon fibre (with considerable lower mass needed for similar strength) has remained a premium product whereas in the same time aluminium has become more of a commodity in e.g. the automotive field, I wonder if this small difference in density will be worth the effort. Maybe when it will become possible to create complete parts made out of correctly aligned tubes in one go it will see an application. Or in special situations, how good can it resist sheering/grinding? Still, you need a manufacturing process with reproducible quality to be able to test these things, so we'll find out soon enough.

In any case, expect this stuff to become a hit in the premium bike/automotive/sailing/fishing market, any of those hobbies were materials are often chosen mostly because you can brag about it to your fellow hobbyists.

I see a great application for genetic algorithms (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616440)

From TFA:

A computer controlling about 30 different parameters in the process--including temperature, temperature gradient, gas flow rates, and the chemistry of the mix--allows the builders to control the properties of the tubes.

A genetic algorithm [] is a great way to optimize a set of parameters. If they can find a way to test parameter sets quickly this would be a great opportunity to use a GA to find the best parameters, especially given that there's so many of them.

Re:I see a great application for genetic algorithm (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617162)

It would be IF they could accurately predict the outcome of a given formulation. But that assumption may not hold if our knowledge of these materials' properties is insufficient.

Gettin close! (1)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616648)

They beat us to physics, but if we can finish the space elevator we still have a chance! :p

It's a series of tubes... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616688)

If they make the tubes longer, the tensile strength could go WAY up from there...

Will it blend? (2, Funny)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616760)

Determining the toxicity of carbon nanotubes has been one of the most pressing questions in Nanotechnology. Results from various scientific tests on cells have so far proven confusing, with some results indicating it to be highly toxic and others showing no signs of toxicity. This is primarily because of difficulties arising in spotting the nanotubes entering the cells from other carbon-based cell structures such as membranes. A recent research led by Alexandra Porter from the University of Cambridge shows once they are inside the cell, they accumulate in the cytoplasm and cause cell death.
Carbon nanosmoke. Don't breathe this!

(source: wikipedia [] .)

Not necessarily relevant (2, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616864)

It depends a lot on the properties of the material. For example, while aluminum sheets are made of microscopic crystals, there is little danger of breathing significant amounts of aluminum unless you spend a lot of work processing it into a fine powder first. These sheets may be the same way. Who knows? We don't.

insufficient for space elevator (3, Informative)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22616988)

So this is 1-2GPa tensile strength. We need about 60-100GPa tensile strength for a space elevator.

it's a start (2, Insightful)

spineboy (22918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617116)

and it's within 2 orders of magnitude to get there. Not too bad. Shouldn't be too hard to engineer, or tweak it to get there.

Re:insufficient for space elevator (1)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617182)

Space elevators are still out until a cable made out of a continuous single fiber of nanotubes can be fabricated, then woven into a braid capable of withstanding the extreme environment of near-space and space itself. We're not talking a regular 5-strand weave here folks, this new weave will need to be able to resolve any problems by itself. If that cable fails, we're talking 200+ miles of weighty fiber and payload coming down onto the ground at terminal velocity. Even with the light weight to length ratio, we're talking metric tons of fiber impacting the ground at 80MPH.

Re:insufficient for space elevator (1)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618242)

In the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanly Robinson that exact thing happened. The space elevator was actually designed to use a small moon as the counterweight (instead of simply using the weight of the elevator itself), in a revolt they blew up the connection between the moon and the elevator, sending the moon out into space and causing the elevator to come down. The length of the elevator was still sufficient to wrap around mars 2x and was effected by the spin of the planet into incredible speed and force. I don't know what sources were used in the writing of that event but it sounds like if there is a failure of the elevator it may not fall straight down but start falling in a line... and doing some major damage.

Re:insufficient for space elevator (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618402)

That's pure fiction, and bad fiction at that. It doesn't matter how you slice it or dice it, the change in angular momentum depends on the mass and the distance, and while a space elevator has a significant mass, it's negligible compared to the planet. And it wouldn't do much damage while falling either: most of it would burn up.

Tensile strength likely to be wrong (2, Interesting)

PeterPiper (167721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617090)

I strongly suspect that the tensile strength quoted is actually a typo by the reporter. Either that or he got his facts seriously wrong. It is unfathomable to me how a sheet of carbon nanotubes would be LESS strong than an equivalent sheet of aluminum. And any company that created such a wimpy sheet of nanotubes sure wouldn't be boasting about it.

Re:Tensile strength likely to be wrong (1)

Loke the Dog (1054294) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618634)

They're not boasting about how strong it is, they are boasting about creating a sheet large enough to be practical of a very promising material. The first cars were slower than horses, people boasted about them anyway.

300-500, but 1200 down the road (1)

shornby (732822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617740)

Yes, aluminum is readily available, but this carbon-based material will reach 1200 soon, which means (probably) that it will reach 3000 shortly... Assuming they get funding. Also, what about the weight difference? Do we have details on that? Aluminum isn't heavy, but probably heavier than this type of material. Since weight is one of the most critical aspects related to space travel (COST!), this could be huge if the weight is a small percentage of aluminum. Then again, what about Kevlar? S

sheets of stuff (1)

cynvision (1032426) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617850)

This takes me back to the Star Trek movie with the whales. I hear "carbon" and think "black" like some of the bubbly experiments my science teacher showed. How possible is it for this stuff to be transparent/translucent? Is this the science that is the RL equivalent of the Star Trek fictional "transparent aluminum?" Simply in 40 years the "base" cutting edge technology went from super metals to super microfibers.
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