The history of carbon nanotubes began in 1952 when two Russian scientists, L. V. Radushkevich and V. M. Lukyanovich published pictures of carbon diameter tubes. They measured 50 nanometers.
Discoveries about the Carbon Nanotubes
The findings of the Russian scientists were not given much publicity. A lot of Western scientists did not even know about it because it was the period of the Cold War. In fact some researchers assert that carbon nanotubes may have been invented prior to 1952, but there’s no way to prove this yet.
Other scientists began making observations about carbon nanotubes. In 1976, Endo, Koyama and Oberlin showed images of carbon fibers with nanometer dimensions. In the history of carbon nanotubes, the three scientists were also the first to show images of a nanotube with a solitary graphene wall.
Six years later, John Abrahamson displayed more proof for carbon nanotubes. His paper classified carbon nanotubes as fibers which were produced during an arc discharge.
Findings in the 1980s and 2000s
In 1981, Russian scientists published more findings. The carbon multi layer tubular crystals (as it was known then) were made by rolling graphene layers into cylindrical shapes. In 1987, Howard Tennet was given a patent for his cylindrical discrete carbon fibrils.
This was followed in 1991 by Sumio Lijima’s unearthing of multi walled carbon nanotubes in arc burned graphite rods. In fact some accounts of the history of carbon nanotubes mistakenly point to Lijima as the discoverer of carbon nanotubes.
The findings of Lijima led to more research and discovery. In 1995, Swiss scientists showed the electron emission property of the nanotubes. Two years later the carbon nanotube signal electron transistors were demonstrated at Berkeley.
The following year demos of the carbon nanotube field effect transistors were shown. The year 2000 produced evidence that bending carbon nanotubes would alter their resistance.
Potential Use and Applications
Carbon nanotubes have different properties that could prove beneficial in a lot of scientific fields. Among them are nanotechnology and optics. While the history of carbon nanotubes is still in its infancy, the possibilities are tremendous.
For example, carbon nanotubes could be used to make waterproof clothing and augment the strength of concrete. The nanotubes could also produce synthetic muscles and create flywheels. They can also be used as chemical nanowires or conductive films (for use on LCD, computer monitors, etc). Carbon nanotubes might be used as air pollution filters, water filters and electric circuits.
In 2002 it was announced that multi walled nanotubes were the most rapid oscillators discovered. 2005 saw a 10 cm screen made of nanotubes invented. Applied Nanowatch has also created a 25 inch TV made from nanotubes.
IBM has also created a prototype electronic circuit. Scientists in 2006 also announced that nanotubes can be used as scaffold for nerve regeneration. The latter presents exciting possibilities for its use in nanotechnologies.
These inventions are seen as just a hint of things to come. As the history of carbon nanotubes continue to be written down, more exciting developments are likely to be in store for science.