While not being particularly new to science, carbon nanotubes remain one of the more interesting and versatile new materials. At their basic level all they are is an allotrope of carbon in the shape of a cylinder, typically made by rolling a single atom thick sheet known as graphene or by deposition of carbon atoms. They also occur naturally in flames. The importance of carbon nanotubes lies in their incredible strength but also incredibly low density which gives them a specific strength (force per unit area divided by density or N·m·kg−1 for short) ~310 times greater than high carbon steel. Carbon nanotubes also have the predicted ability to carry an electrical current density that is 1000 times that of traditional conductors such as copper along with also being superb thermal conductors. The longest carbon nanotube to date clocks in at 18.5 cm (7.3 inches or 84% the width of a soccer ball) with the greatest length to width ratio being 132,000,000:1.
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