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Posted: October 16, 2007
Carbon Nanotubes Possess Tremendous Potential for Commercialization
(Nanowerk News) New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Carbon Nanotubes - Road to Commercialization, finds that technology advancements in the field of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are likely to have an impact on the materials’ commercialization.
Researchers worldwide are investigating techniques to test some of the fundamental predictions about nanotube behavior and understand their functioning at a basic level. This is the key for the awareness about their unique properties, which would help control and manipulate these materials for implementation in commercial applications.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (ti.frost.com), Carbon Nanotubes - Road to Commercialization, finds that technology advancements in the field of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are likely to have an impact on the materials’ commercialization. So far, researchers have aimed at developing methods to produce them for both scientific and industry use. Since the market for these materials are yet to be established, nanotube manufacturers need to work toward growing the market.
"CNTs are finding increasing implementation in low-end applications such as thin film conductive coatings," notes Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst Archana Jayarajah. "Both academia and industry participants are now focusing their efforts on researching CNTs for high-end applications."
Current synthesis techniques for CNTs produce tubes that are of different diameters, length and chirality, having electronic properties packed together in bundles. These are often mixed with some amount of amorphous carbon or are encapsulated by a layer of carbon. Many applications demand the availability of one type of CNT.
Furthermore, most CNT synthesis techniques use metal catalysts that are usually present in the final product. These catalyst impurities either affect nanotube properties or accelerate their decomposition, influencing their success in commercial applications. It is of utmost importance to develop techniques that can efficiently remove or reduce these impurities.
Another challenge that the industry is trying to address is the issue of agglomeration. CNTs have a tendency to bundle up or agglomerate, thereby reducing the accessible specific surface area of the tubes. For the nanotube to be chemically functionalized, or for it to be beneficial in the host material, dispersion is a key element. Essentially, the agglomerates must be broken down by mechanical size reduction and dispersing agents must be added to avoid re-agglomeration.
"There are many factors that are of concern for the commercialization of CNTs, but these are not exclusive to CNT-related technology, as they are also typically related to the adoption of many other emerging materials and nanomaterials," notes Jayarajah. "The support for further research in this area is essential to make things easier for the commercialization of these materials."
The benefits offered by nanotubes--and in general, any nanomaterial--could be ultimately related to demonstrations on how safe these materials are for human health and the environment. Industrial processes that consider optimized and controlled production of CNTs are a plus in this context. Nanotube enthusiasts believe that as the technology matures and makes its way into various applications, it would be the beginning of the 'nanotube age’.
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