Tiny Tech #8: Carbon Nanotubes

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

A key ingredient in many products, from pencil leads to tennis racquets, is the chemical substance graphite.  Graphite is a form of carbon in which the atoms bond to one another in sheets that are one atom thick.  Just as a single sheet of paper can be rolled up into a tube, a single sheet of carbon atoms can be rolled up into a remarkable form of matter called a carbon nanotube.  Such carbon nanotubes are about 100,000 times thinner than a single human hair. 

One potential application of carbon nanotubes is in display screens for televisions, computers, and smart phones.  Remarkably, prototype displays based on carbon nanotubes consume less energy than their plasma and LCD counterparts.  In addition, the properties of the nanotubes are retained even when the tubes are bent. Thus, it may be possible to use them to create a new generation of flexible and lightweight electronic devices.    

Older TVs and computers had bulky displays known as cathode ray tubes.  But because of carbon nanotubes, it may again become appropriate to turn on the TV and ask, “what’s on the tube tonight?”

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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