Nanotubes for Electronics; December 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Philip G. Collins, Phaedon Avouris; 8 Page(s)
Nearly 10 years ago Sumio Iijima, sitting at an electron microscope at the NEC Fundamental Research Laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan, first noticed odd nanoscopic threads lying in a smear of soot. Made of pure carbon, as regular and symmetric as crystals, these exquisitely thin, impressively long macromolecules soon became known as nanotubes, and they have been the object of intense scientific study ever since.
Just recently, they have become a subject for engineering as well. Many of the extraordinary properties attributed to nanotubes-among them, superlative resilience, tensile strength and thermal stability-have fed fantastic predictions of microscopic robots, dent-resistant car bodies and earthquake-resistant buildings. The first products to use nanotubes, however, exploit none of these. Instead the earliest applications are electrical. Some General Motors cars already include plastic parts to which nanotubes were added; such plastic can be electrified during painting so that the paint will stick more readily. And two nanotube-based lighting and display products are well on their way to market.