With the help of academics, government organizations, and scientists from around the world, a carbon nanotube (CNT) fiber has been developed that has the potential to work in tandem with cotton fibers to develop new and ground-breaking technology.
“It looks like black cotton thread,” explains Matteo Pasqualli, professor of chemical and bimolecular engineering and chemistry at Rice University, “but it behaves like both metal wires and strong carbon fibers.” Explaining that he hopes to combine it with cotton to create a textile of cotton and carbonate, Pasqualli shares his vision for the future partnership of fiber and the CNTs:
“Think about people with cardio arrhythmias who have to measure their heart rhythms with machines. We could weave these nanotech threads into a cotton T-shirt that they wear around that could record their heartbeats, and then they could just plug the shirt into a data port and send the information to their doctors at the end of the day. The opportunities are endless.”
CNTs has been around for decades, but the ability to go from the natural powder state to an object, ideally a fiber, was a difficult step, Pasqualli says. “The molecules are cylindrical, so once we figured out how to dissolve them in chlorosulfonic acid and then push them through a tiny hole to make strands of fibers we could finally spin them as a worm spins silk.”
Although Pasqualli explains that CNTs could also work with polyester materials, he emphasizes that the texture is much closer to cotton. “I hope to see these innovations happening within a few years,” he says. “These would be high value products with very little expensive material. It is possible to make one of the T-shirts I mentioned with 99% cotton and 1% CNTs, so this is very attainable.”
To view how CNTs are spun, click here.