With advances in science and technology, humanity is in a midst of a quest, searching for better and optimal material science products. We have come a long way since the discovery of better metallurgical techniques, which has lead to the extraction of metals/ non-metals, which are used in building high strength structures. Exhaustive investigation in order to improve and exploit the useful properties like strength (mechanical), catalysis, electrical or thermal conductivity, optical or magnetic properties have lead to the formation of nano-sciences. Decades of research tell us that when breaking these metal/ non-metal (bulk material) to the nano-atomic level, as the size approaches the nano-scale, when the percentage of the surface in relation to the percentage of the volume of a material becomes significant, then high surface area to volume ratio of nanoparticles change their basic properties.
These nano-sized materials were found to have many times amplified and sometimes varied physical and chemical properties. Even noble metals like gold and silver showed manifold increase in catalytic properties in their nano-particle form. These nanoparticles can be prepared in various sizes, and depending on their morphology they are called spheres, rods, cylinders or fibres.
Ever since the discovery of carbon nano-tubes (CNT’s) in 1991, CNT’s have promised high performance due to impressive electrical, magnetic and mechanical properties. CNT’s have been found to be very robust, being 100 times stronger than steel but only one-sixth as heavy. A large number of reinforced composites of CNT’s have also been tested.
The properties of individual CNT’s can never be challenged yet the production of these top-performance nano-scale materials into the real world at macro-scale has been exceedingly difficult. Since each CNT has its own orientation, it is difficult to line them up in the same direction. Factors like nano-tube length, density, structure (single or multi-walled) also affect the mechanical properties of the final product.
Fortunately researchers have found new methods to develop long fibres both by hand and machines. Short length CNTs can now be spun into long fibers that look like ordinary cotton thread but have properties like metal wires (conductivity) and carbon fibres (high strength). Thus CNT fibres combines the best characteristics of polymers and existing engineering fibres.
We recommend that businesses should investigate these materials in their business. They can find a place in aerospace, astronautics, automotive, marine and smart and functional clothing applications. The same technology can be used to get optimal fibre structure from all kinds of nano-tubes. The possibilities are practically endless.
The world beyond the micrometer is waiting to be discovered. Are we on the verge of a revolution. I say, hell yes!