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July 23rd, 2011
First discovered under an electron microscope over a half a century ago, carbon nanotubes have become one of the most sought after materials today. The tiny structures are used in dozens of applications that touch nearly every industry, including aerospace, electronics, medicine, defense, automotive, energy, construction, and even fashion.
Carbon nanotubes (aka CNTs) are made from graphene sheets consisting of a single atomic layer of carbon atoms in a honeycomb framework that can be rolled into a tube measuring about a nanometer or, one billionth of a meter, in diameter.
At this scale, these cylindrical molecules defy the classic laws of physics with exceptional properties. Carbon nanotubes have excellent electrical conductivity, the ability to withstand high working temperatures, and the highest strength to weight ratio of any known material.
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