School of Engineering and Materials Science Publication:
"Firing up on all Cylinders"
Journal: Materials World, Vol. 15, 24-25 (2007).
Hollow carbon fibres of nano dimensions were first reported in Russia in 1952, but due to limited transmission electron microscopy resolution, their significance was not realised. In 1991, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were accidentally re-discovered by Sumio Iijima, then Chief Researcher at NEC’s Fundamental Research Laboratories, Japan, and they are now being considered for application in field effect transistors, sensors and as structural materials. The outstanding physical properties of CNTs also make them attractive for combining with other materials to create composites. They have high strength and elastic stiffness, and excellent thermal and electrical conductivities (see table, below). Nanoforce Technology Ltd, a spinout company from the Materials Department at Queen Mary, University of London, UK, is working with other UK companies to develop electrically conductive polymerand ceramic-CNT composites. These materials provide a new envelope of properties. They offer the advantages of ceramics – high corrosion and wear resistance – combined with good electrical and thermal conductivity. They can also be incorporated into polymers to combine electrical conductivity with the benefits of plastics, such as flexibility and easy processing, to make conductive films or fibres. Ceramic-CNT composites could be used in electrodes in corrosive environments, for high temperature micro-circuitry and as thread guides in the textile industry. Conductive polymer composites could find application in the electronics, automotive and aerospace sectors, such as anti-static coatings for motor vehicle fuel system components and conductive yarns for textiles.