The Advantages of Carbon Nanotubes
Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in nature, and takes on a wide range of forms, called allotropes, each with unique properties. In particular, the allotrope graphene is a strong material with excellent mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties.
This makes it possible to produce new materials with much higher strength and conductivity than any known metal. In addition, a natural inclination of carbon nanotubes to form ropes offers an opportunity to develop ultra-strong, low-weight materials that are highly conductive.
Furthermore, their ability to carry high currents and the fact that they are highly flexible make them very attractive as reinforcements in plastics, with a view to reducing weight and improving performance, for example in automotive vehicles and aircraft. Their resistance to heat and abrasion also make them useful for protective coatings.
Another area where the potential of carbon nanotubes is becoming increasingly apparent is in water purification. The extremely narrow openings of the tubes allow the passage of water molecules – 10 times faster than in the best biological membrane, a protein called aquaporin – and this makes them ideal for developing filters to protect us from contaminants in drinking water.
However, the quality of carbon nanotubes varies enormously and requires careful analysis to ensure that they are suitable for the intended application. Intertek scientists have the analytical tools and over 20 years of experience in this field to help nanotube manufacturers optimize production and guarantee the quality of their products for downstream users.