A team of scientists, including researchers at Cambridge University, have successfully produced live video footage that shows how carbon nanotubes form. The video sequences show nanofibres and nanotubes nucleating around miniscule particles of nickel and are already offering greater insight into how these microscopic structures self-assemble.
Sumio Iijima recorded in 1997. Carbon nanotubes, some 1000 times smaller than conventional carbon fibers, have tensile strengths 100x that of steel and conduct electricity like metals. They promise a revolution in structural and electrical engineering.
In June 2006, Rice University scientists published the first results of a new technique to videotape individual carbon nanotubes. This video was created with standard optical microscopes and video cameras. The nanotubes - tiny cylinders of carbon no wider than a strand of DNA - were filmed in a droplet of soapy water trapped between two glass slides. They are visible because of a fluorescent dye trapped in the soap molecule surrounding each nanotube.
Carbon nanotube based are expected to provide extraordinarily strong but light-weight composites for future structural applications. To realize these applications, we first need to know a lot more about these materials: especially, how strong is this nanotube? How stiff? What happens if you bend it? Twist it? Stretch it? Compress it? This clip shows the simulation of a multiwall nanotube undergoing torsional twisting.