Ease of manufacture is vital for the success of these electronic technologies. Devices using only single nanowire elements need precise special positioning. Carbon nanonetworks have an advantage over single wires: there are so many nanotubes with various alignments there is always a possible path for an electric current to pass through.
The films are fully flexible and transparent and Gruner hopes that future applications will include foldable electronic paper, solar cells that are sprayed onto the roofs of houses and smart fabrics.
‘Today we are at the same stage as silicon was half a century ago,’ said Gruner. ‘It is only a matter of time before such films exceed the performance of traditional metals.’
Mauricio Terrones, of the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research, San Luis Potosino, Mexico, is positive about Gruner’s work: ‘at present numerous applications could emerge, but this shows that it is indeed possible to fabricate smart materials using transparent nanotube films’.
‘We have only just started to embark on this enterprise,’ said Gruner. ‘In order to have wide acceptance, industrial scale production and manufacture of high performance tubes has to be resolved and performance barriers exceeded’.