What is a carbon nanotube?

Graphene is a new material, representative of nanotechnology. Graphene, which consists of one-atom-thick planar sheets of carbon atoms that are packed in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice, was the subject of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. A carbon nanotube (CNT) is a hollow-fiber substance made of a cylinder of graphene, with a nanosized diameter. It was discovered by Professor Sumio Iijima, who is currently a professor at Meijo University. The carbon nanotube’s characteristics include a strength tens of times greater than that of steel, electrical conductivity more than 1,000 times greater than that of copper, thermal conductivity more than ten times greater than that of copper, and other properties which make it a material with extraordinary capabilities not seen anywhere else.

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There are two main types of carbon nanotube: single-walled nanotubes (SWNT), comprised of one sheet of graphite, and multi-walled nanotubes (MWNT) which consist of multiple concentrically-rolled layers of graphite. In general, it is single-walled nanotubes that are the subject of research as their extremely narrow diameter means quantum effects are more apparent and they are easier to treat as models. The structure and physicality also differs depending on the way a single graphite sheet curves (chirality). Chirality determines the electrical properties, strong mechanical strength, and diamond-strength thermal conductive properties for single-walled nanotubes that become semiconductors and metals. Currently, applied development which utilizes the intrinsic properties of nanotubes, such as establishing isolation techniques for metals and semiconductors is being actively conducted.
On the other hand, multi-walled carbon nanotubes measure around 10nm to 100nm, and are extremely strong materials due to the multiple layers of graphite sheets. Quantity synthesis is also easy and industrialization is underway.

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