Nanomaterials in Industry: Carbon Nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes are tubes made up of single-walled carbon atoms that have a honeycomb-like pattern. Commonly, they will be found as Multi Walled Carbon Nanotubes (MWCNTs) and Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes (SWCNTs). The diameter of the nanotubes must be less than or equal to 100 nanometers, while the length of this material tends to be much longer.

Nanotubes have become quite relevant in recent years, due to their following properties:

  • Excellent electrical conductivity. This material can reach a higher conductivity than copper or silver.

  • High tensile strength. Due to its structure, carbon nanotubes have a high tensile strength when a force is applied in the direction of its length.

  • Thermal conductivity. They exceed by 2.5 times the thermal conductivity of copper.

As mentioned above, nanotubes are unique materials with exceptional properties. Therefore, different sectors in the industry, such as electronics, mechanics, materials engineering, chemistry and biotechnology, are favored when using them. One of their most promising applications is in the electronics industry, thanks to their good conductivity, allowing them to be used as interconnects, transistors, filters, sensors or field emitters. Similarly, nanotubes can be incorporated in the manufacture of chemical and biological sensors, which would lead to significant environmental benefits, when used to detect polluting substances. On the other hand, there is a promising future in medicine, as there is a great deal of research exploring the use of carbon nanotubes in the administration and development of drugs, prostheses and improved diagnostics.

Currently, there are companies such as OCSiAl with the capacity to produce carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) on an industrial scale for application in different materials. Projections for the use of carbon nanotubes show a substantial increase in the market. According to studies carried out by MarketsandMarkets magazine, the market is projected to grow from the $876 million dollars currently invested to $1,714 million dollars by 2026.

Undoubtedly, the interest in this nanomaterial and its applications is growing and this is reflected in the investment that is allocated to it; opening job opportunities for those seeking a career in materials science and nanoscience.