Strong, Light, Multifunctional Fibers of Carbon Nanotubes with Ultrahigh Conductivity

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Science  11 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6116, pp. 182-186
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228061

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Optimizing Carbon Nanotubes

Shorter carbon nanotubes are easier to make, but, when assembled into fibers, the resulting fiber properties are much poorer than might be predicted by theory. Conversely, longer carbon nanotubes have much better properties but are harder to process. Behabtu et al. (p. 182) combined the best of both worlds through scalable wet spinning method, in which they dissolved longer carbon nanotubes and then spun them into fibers that showed excellent strength, stiffness, and thermal conductivity.


Broader applications of carbon nanotubes to real-world problems have largely gone unfulfilled because of difficult material synthesis and laborious processing. We report high-performance multifunctional carbon nanotube (CNT) fibers that combine the specific strength, stiffness, and thermal conductivity of carbon fibers with the specific electrical conductivity of metals. These fibers consist of bulk-grown CNTs and are produced by high-throughput wet spinning, the same process used to produce high-performance industrial fibers. These scalable CNT fibers are positioned for high-value applications, such as aerospace electronics and field emission, and can evolve into engineered materials with broad long-term impact, from consumer electronics to long-range power transmission.

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