Carbon nanotubes, though a relatively recent find, have fueled the imagination of many scientists, who strongly believe that they are the future of electronic circuitry. Polymers are repeating structural units, or monomers, connected by covalent chemical bonds, present in many natural and artificial materials, from plastics to DNA.
What happens when you combine the two materials? A revolutionary
chemical compound, ultra-lightweight, corrosion-resistant and highly conductive, that can surpass most commonly used metals, in many industrial areas.
University of Virginia engineering professor Mool C. Gupta and his team created this supermaterial by uniting the properties of plastic polymers and metals via carbon nanotubes and the result could revolutionize electromagnetic shielding and many other applications.
Already top of the list for several prizes, like the Nano50 award from Nanotech Briefs magazine, which "recognizes the top 50 technologies, products and innovators that have significantly impacted nanotechnology," the new creation could find uses in many practical applications of the near future.
Most electronic devices that rely on finetuned sensors, like cellphones and computers, could use this material as a new shield against electromagnetic interference, due to its electrical conductivity, even higher that the one exhibited by heavy and bulky metals.
This compound is actually a mixture of plastic polymer, carbon and a foaming agent, one that makes it extremely lightweight, cheaper than metal and totally corrosion-proof. Carbon nanotubes are actually the key elements in producing this unique combination of properties, as a 1% increase in nanotubes in the compound increased the electrical conductivity by 10 orders of magnitude, but also the material's thermal conductivity, improving its capacity to dissipate heat.
While the original goal of the research was to take plastic and make it electrically conductive, the final results astounded even the researchers, who were not even dreaming of creating such a valuable product.