Carbon Nanotubes

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  • Topic: Carbon nanotube, Carbon, Graphite
  • Pages : 18 (6618 words )
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  • Published : February 19, 2013
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Carbon Nanotubes


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are a recently discovered allotrope of carbon. They take the form of cylindrical carbon molecules and have novel properties that make them potentially useful in a wide variety of applications in nanotechnology, electronics, optics, and other fields of materials science. They exhibit extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties, and are efficient conductors of heat. Inorganic nanotubes have also been synthesized. A nanotube is a member of the fullerene structural family, which also includes buckyballs. Whereas buckyballs are spherical in shape, a nanotube is cylindrical, with at least one end typically capped with a hemisphere of the buckyball structure. Their name is derived from their size, since the diameter of a nanotube is on the order of a few nanometers (approximately 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair), while they can be up to several millimeters in length. There are two main types of nanotubes: single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) and multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs). Manufacturing a nanotube is dependent on applied quantum chemistry, specifically, orbital hybridization. Nanotubes are composed entirely of sp2 bonds, similar to those of graphite. This bonding structure, stronger than the sp3 bonds found in diamond, provides the molecules with their unique strength. Nanotubes naturally align themselves into "ropes" held together by Van der Waals forces. Under high pressure, nanotubes can merge together, trading some sp2 bonds for sp3 bonds, giving great possibility for producing strong, unlimited-length wires through high-pressure nanotube linking


Carbon nanotubes are wires of pure carbon with nanometer diameters and lengths of many microns. A single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) may be thought of as a single atomic layer thick sheet of graphite (called graphene) rolled into a seamless cylinder. Multi -walled carbon nanotubes (MWNT) consist of several concentric nanotube shells. Understanding the electronic properties of the graphene sheet helps to understand the electronic properties of carbon nanotubes. Graphene is a zero-gap semiconductor; for most directions in the graphene sheet, there is a bandgap, and electrons are not free to flow along those directions unless they are given extra energy. However, in certain special directions graphene is metallic, and electrons flow easily along those directions. This property is not obvious in bulk graphite, since there is always a conducting metallic path which can connect any two points, and hence graphite conducts electricity. However, when graphene is rolled up to make the nanotube, a special direction is selected, the direction along the axis of the nanotube. Sometimes this is a metallic direction, and sometimes it is semiconducting, so some nanotubes are metals, and others are semiconductors. Since both metals and semiconductors can be made from the same all-carbon system, nanotubes are ideal candidates for molecular electronics technologies. Three nanotubes of different chiralities. In addition to their interesting electronic structure, nanotubes have a number of other useful properties. Nanotubes are incredibly stiff and tough mechanically - the world's strongest fibers. Nanotubes conduct heat as well as diamond at room temperature. Nanotubes are very sharp, and thus can be used as probe tips for scanning-probe microscopes, and field-emission electron sources for lamps and displays.


The current huge interest in carbon nanotubes is a direct consequence of the synthesis of buckminsterfullerene, C60, and other fullerenes, in 1985. The discovery that carbon could form stable, ordered structures other than graphite and diamond stimulated researchers worldwide to search for other new forms of carbon. The search was given new impetus when it was shown in 1990 that C60 could be produced in a simple arc-evaporation apparatus readily...
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