Researchers at East China University of Science & Technology have finally managed to develop a macroscopic material that exhibits the same strength and pliability as individual nanotubes. In fact, their new carbon nanotube-based film that is five times stronger and 8 percent more pliable than any such material previously developed.
The secret is in how the nanotubes are arrayed, according to ECU professor Jian Nong Wang. By laying the tubes parallel to each other -- rather than spraying or filtering them on, as other methods do -- the ECU team was able to create the super-strong film. Their film has an average strength of 9.6 gigapascals -- far more than the 3.7 and 7 GPa that Kevlar and carbon fiber offer, respectively. It also offers superior electrical conductivity, making the new material ideal for use as a structural coating on vehicles and aerospace components or as next-generation electrodes.