While carbon nanotubes and graphene are often praised as the future of technological materials, a number of manufacturing issues must be addressed before silicon can be replaced on a large scale. However, new techniques have emerged offering a simple, straight-forward way to solder carbon nanotubes together that isn’t a major departure from existing manufacturing technologies, which is to say it is much less expensive than replacing current infrastructure.
Using this method, researchers are able to arrange carbon nanotubes acting as transistors that can then be embedded in thin plastic sheets or flat-panel displays, enabling one to create extremely flexible electronics, for which silicon is ill-suited.
Carbon nanotubes are remarkably thin, tube-shaped materials composed of carbon, as the name implies. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter — roughly one-thousandth as thick as a human hair. The layer of graphite resembles rolled-up chicken wire with a continuous hexagonal mesh and carbon molecules at each hexagon’s apex.
Carbon nanotubes are prized for their unparalleled physical properties; for example, one can construct carbon nanotubes with a length-to-diameter ratio of as high as 132 million to one. Where they really shine, though, is their electrical conductivity characteristics, which is why commentators are quick to predict that they will dominate the technological future.
However, turning carbon nanotubes into transistors is, for the time being, a challenge. When turning carbon nanotubes into transistors, one must slow down or stop the current at junctions. The connecting wires in a standard circuit are soldered together, but nanotubes are so small as to make standard soldering procedures impossible….
(Continue to Part Two)