A Tiny Huge Step for Nanotech

A sheet made from nanotubes, tiny carbon tubes only a few times bigger than atoms with remarkable strength and electronic properties. In today’s edition of the journal Science, however, scientists from the University of Texas and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization report the creation of industry-ready sheets of materials made from nanotubes. Nanotubes are tiny carbon tubes with remarkable strength that are only a few times wider than atoms. They can also act as the semiconductors found in modern electronics.

The same sheet, emitting polarized light after the voltage is applied through incandescent heating.

“This is fundamentally a new material,” says team leader Ray Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson.

• Self-supporting, transparent and stronger than steel or high-strength plastics, the sheets are flexible and can be heated to emit light.

• A square mile of the thinnest sheets, about 2-millionths-of-an-inch thick, would weigh only about 170 pounds.

• In lab tests, the sheets demonstrated solar cell capabilities, using sunlight to produce electricity.