HOUSTON, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Scientists have unveiled a revolutionary carbon nanotube fibre that looks and acts like textile threat and conducts electricity and heat like a metal wire, U.S. media reported Friday.
The material would open up a new realm of engineering properties, for everything from common wiring to spacecraft hulls, according to a online report by The Houston Chronicle.
Scientists have long recognized the potential in single-walled carbon nanotubes, but they have been expensive to make in quantity and quality, and it' s been difficult to connect the tiny, micron-long tubes into longer, useful fibers.
The new breakthrough, achieved by scientists from Rice University in Houston, Texas, the Dutch firm Teijin Aramid, the U.S. Air Force and Israel' s Technion Institute, capped 10 years of efforts that make threadlike fibres possible, beating high-performance materials in a number of ways.
"We finally have a nanotube fibre with properties that do not exist in any other material. It looks like black cotton thread, but behaves like both metal wires and strong carbon fibers," said Matteo Pasquali, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry at Rice University, who led the research.
Process of creating these fibers also appears to be scalable, which means it shouldn' t be too difficult for industry to make them, scientists said in a new paper in the journal Science.
The feedstock and chemicals used to make these fibers are also relatively common, meaning that once a manufacturing process is put in place, the carbon-base materials and catalysts aren' t expensive, scientists said.
However, the new material is not quite the perfect carbon nanotube fiber. Though it's stronger than steel and it's thermal conductivity is much better than aluminum or copper, it' s not quite as electrically conductive as aluminum or copper, said Pasquali, adding that there' s still room for improvement.