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Technology: Building our Future with Carbon

By Dick Weisinger

“Carbon has a very special status in the periodic table of the elements and forms the basis for all forms of life due to the extremely large number of chemical compounds it can form. The most well-known examples are three-dimensional graphite and diamond. However, two-dimensional graphene, one-dimensional nanotubes, and zero-dimensional nanodots also open up new opportunities for electronics applications in the future,” said Dirk M Guldi, professor at Friedrich Alexander University in Germany.

Carbon nanotubes, for example, have applications in many areas of technology, including electronics, optics, and composite materials. Carbon nanotubes are very lightweight and have excellent electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, tensile strength, and semiconductor capabilities. These properties are possible because of the microscopic nanostructure of the material.

A carbon nanotube (CNTs) is a nanometer-sized tube made from carbon. CNTs are essentially rolled sheets of single-layer carbon graphene. CNTs were originally discovered in the 1950s but it wasn’t until the 1990s that they have been extensively researched.

Matteo Pasquali, professor at Rice University, said that “there’s a growing realization that it’s probably not a good idea to increase the mining of copper and aluminum and nickel. But there is this giant opportunity to use hydrocarbons as our ore. In that light, we need to broaden as much as possible the range in which we can use carbon materials, especially where it can displace metals with a product that can be manufactured sustainably from a feedstock like hydrocarbons. Carbon is plentiful, we control the supply chains and we know how to get it out in an environmentally responsible way.”

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