Home > carbon nanotubes (Molecule of the Month for October 1998)

Picture of carbon nanotubes

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Picture of carbon nanotubes

BUCKY TUBES are a new promising form of carbon based fullerenes. They are based on elongated pipelines of hexagonal carbon faces capped at both ends with 12 carbon pentagons needed for curvature to cap off the ends. Carbon nanotubes are predicted to be stronger than any known material (even diamond), with potential applications in numerous nanoscale architectures such as in microelectronics.

Physicist Roger Bacon first observed these unusual 'carbon whiskers' in the 1960s, but it was Sumio Iijima in Japan who first appreciated their significance. In 1992 Iijima's NEC research team perfected a way of making bulk quantities of single-walled nanotubes. Using this method, Iijima and Ajayan later found a way of filling the tubes with molten lead in a way similar to that of capillary action.

The possibility of using such filled tubes as molecular scale wires is attracting considerable interest, fuelled by the observation that at below about 7 K lead becomes superconducting. Recently these tubes have been filled with many other metals and other chemicals even proteins and catalysts.

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for October 1998 )