Individual carbon nanotubes are some of the strongest, most conductive known materials. But most attempts to build larger materials from them result in a tangled mess that has neither of these properties. The problem is that to make such materials, you need to align the nanotubes.
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Carbon nanotubes have superlative strength and conductivity, but in the two decades since their discovery, it’s proved difficult to make long strands out of them that could take advantage of those properties. Now researchers at Rice University and Dutch materials company Teijin Aramid are making thread-like nanotube fibers that combine the electrical conductivity of metals with the strength of carbon composites, and are lightweight, flexible, and thermally conductive.
Teijin Aramid, based in Arnhem, Netherlands, and a leading producer of high-strength fibers, plans to commercialize the nanotube-based materials, likely first in wiring for planes and satellites, and eventually in electronic textiles and medical implants that resist corrosion.
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