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Tsinghua achieves big breakthrough in fabricating superstrong carbon nanotube fibers

Tsinghua University’s Department of Chemical Engineering and School of Aerospace Engineering have recently made a breakthrough in the field of ultra-strong carbon nanotube (CNT) fibers. The research, which was led by Professor Wei Fei, Dr. Zhang Rufan, and Professor Li Xide’s groups, has solved one of the major challenges in developing CNT bundles whilst minimizing fiber defects and maintaining strength.

Carbon nanotubes are considered to be one of the strongest materials ever discovered. One of the potential applications of CNTs is for making space elevators, which were first proposed as a convenient and efficient way to get into the outer space by the rocket scientist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895. One of the major challenges in developing such a technology is finding a lightweight but superstrong fiber. The technological breakthrough of ultra-strong CNT fibers also exhibits promising application potentials in many other fields such as sports equipment, ballistic armors, aeronautics, and astronautics, etc.

The breakthrough was achieved by fabricating CNT bundles via a method known as in-situ gas flow focusing and enhancing their tensile strength via a method called synchronous tightening and relaxing. This process enabled bundles of CNTs, around a centimeter in length, to be produced without defects and oriented in a uniform fashion with uniform initial strain/stress. These bundles have a tensile strength of over 80 GPa, which is much higher than that of previously reported fibers.

The work, published in Nature Nanotechnology, reveals a bright prospect for superstrong fibers made of ultralong carbon nanotubes.

Link to the paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41565-018-0141-z

Editors: Zhang Rufan, Robert Pell, Zhu Lvhe