Only Connect: Carbon nanotubes – a new interconnection technology

The future is here and it’s all about carbon nanotubes! We in the cable assembly business may all be out of a job as this amazing material does the same work as traditional copper based cables but at a much smaller scale.
But don’t worry you’re job is safe for the moment as it is still early days for this emerging technology. Here is the blurb from Nanocomp Technology manufacture of the carbon nanotubes:

It has been long known that individual carbon nanotubes have extraordinary properties:
•    Strength
•    Conduct Electricity
•    Conduct Heat
•    Lightweight
However, up to now, competitive commercial manufacturing processes have generally produced only short carbon nanotubes - usually tens of microns long - with current carbon nanotubes generally available in powder formats. And, as with most powders, they can be quite difficult to incorporate into final manufactured goods. Perhaps most importantly, final products made from traditional powdery nanotubes have poor bulk properties - exhibiting less than optimal strength and conductivity.

NCTI's patent pending processes change the game. We have developed methods to continuously produce very long, pure, carbon nanotubes, in the millimetre range of length, at high growth rates. Longer nanotubes mean greater strength, higher conductivity, easier handling, and greater product safety.

They are key to providing the attractive properties exhibited by individual tubes.
Today's nanotubes are also quite expensive - usually too expensive for use in volume industrial applications. This is a result of the significant amounts of impurities generated in their manufacture. Extensive and expensive post growth purification is usually needed to remove these impurities.

NCTI's process produces very pure materials that do not require post-growth purification. High initial purity, combined with high output production rates hold the promise of achieving excellent process economics and product affordability as we scale the process

However, long nanotubes are only part of the story.

Widespread industrial use of carbon nanotubes has also been limited due to a lack of volume production methods to create long nanotube fibers or sheets, with attractive physical properties, for use in final products.

To address this, NCTI has also developed novel methods to fabricate its nanotubes into structurally strong and electro-thermally conductive fibers, yarns, and sheets. They are delivering on some of the long awaited promises of carbon nanotubes. For example our products exhibit:
•    High Strength - our spun conductive yarns exhibit breaking strengths up to 3 GPa expressed or in other terms: 1.5 Nt/Tex or 450,000 psi and with fracture toughness that is higher than aramids (such as Kevlar or Twaron). Our CNT sheets have breaking strengths, without binders, that range from 500 MPa to 1.2 GPa depending upon tube orientation. aluminium breaks at 500 MPa, carbon steel breaks around 1 GPa.
•    Electrical Conductivity - Capable of carrying more current than copper and are also more conductive than copper at high frequencies.
•    Thermal Conductivity - Capability to transfer more heat than copper or silver on a
per weight basis.
•    Thermoelectric behaviour - Demonstrate a Seebeck coefficient of greater than 60 µV/ºK
and power greater than 1 watt/gram.
•    Extremely Lightweight - Less than half the weight of aluminium
To leverage these properties we have created value added components, such as conductive cables, thermal straps, EMI shielding "skins," and high strength sheets or yarns for incorporation into final end-user products

Or you can just watch this video in which a bloke with a beard in a white lab coat explains everything you need to know about nanotubes.

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So there you have it the future is an exciting place full of possibilities we just have to work out where we fit into this future.

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