For the first time, researchers have made carbon-nanotube electrical cables that can carry as much current as copper wires. These nanotube cables could help carry more renewable power farther in the electrical grid, provide lightweight wiring for more-fuel-efficient vehicles and planes, and make connections in low-power computer chips. Researchers at Rice University have now demonstrated carbon-nanotube cables in a practical system and are designing a manufacturing line for commercial production.
Making lightweight, efficient carbon nanotube wiring as conductive as copper has been a goal of nanotechnologists since the 1980s. Individual carbon nanotubes—hollow nanoscale tubes of pure carbon—are mechanically strong and an order of magnitude more conductive than copper. But unless carbon nanotubes are put together just so, larger structures made from them don’t have the superlative properties of the individual tubes.
Chalk one up for tech in the epic battle between technological advancement versus the Malthusian struggle for natural resources. At least we hope this is the case. Good stuff!
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