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A carbon molecule that resembles a cylinder made out of chicken wire one to two nanometers in diameter by any number of millimeters in length. Accidentally discovered by a Japanese researcher at NEC in 1990 while making Buckyballs, they have potential use in many applications. With a tensile strength 10 times greater than steel at about one quarter the weight, nanotubes are considered the strongest material for their weight known to mankind.

Myriad Applications
Currently used to strengthen plastics and carbon fibers, nanotubes have the potential for making ultra-strong fabrics as well as reinforcing structural materials in buildings, cars and airplanes. In the future, nanotubes may replace silicon in electronic circuits, and prototypes of elementary components have been developed. In 1998, IBM and NEC created nanotube transistors, and three years later, IBM created a NOT gate using two nanotube transistors. Nanotubes are already used as storage cells in Nantero's non-volatile memory chips (see NRAM), and they are expected to be used in the construction of sensors and display screens.

Single Walled and Multiwalled
Single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) use a single sheath of graphite one atom thick, called "graphene." Multiwalled nanotubes (MWNTs) are either wrapped into multiple layers like a parchment scroll or are constructed of multiple cylinders, one inside the other. See Buckyball, graphene, nanotechnology and NRAM.

The Chicken Wire Tube
At the molecular level, a single-walled carbon nanotube looks a lot like rolled up chicken wire with hexagonal cells. The number of applications that may ultimately benefit from carbon nanotubes is enormous.
References in periodicals archive ?
In fact, the first prototype of a nanotube computer has already been built by researchers at Stanford University.
The researchers coated the nanotubes in successive layers of alternately charged polymer solutions to create distinct, binding layers around each nanotube.
It takes little more than a 1 percent nanotube addition to transform an epoxy with the viscosity of light motor oil into peanut butter.
As the cells spread apart, a wire-thin nanotube stretched between them.
We're using an intrinsic property of nanotubes to develop a weapon that kills cancer.
Going forward, AIST will proceed with research to verify the optical functionality, safety and durability of carbon nanotubes encapsulating beta-carotene with a view to developing fading-resistant inks.
The contact resistance between nanotube and metal electrodes must be controlled.
Seiichiro Kiyooka, chief analyst at Fuji Keizai, an industry research firm, concurs that Mitsui's efforts in nanotube mass-production technology will eventually lower costs.
IBM scientists engineered the device to be "ambipolar' so they could simultaneously inject negative charges (electrons) from a source electrode and positive charges (holes) from a drain electrode into a single carbon nanotube.
Zhou and his team are looking into the submicroscopic world of nanotubes to find new ways to store energy in batteries.
The IBM team made a " voltage inverter " -- one of the three fundamental logic circuits that are the basis for all of today's computers -- from a carbon nanotube, a tube-shaped molecule of carbon atoms that is 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.
Using this `chemical vapour deposition' method, the group has been able to align nanotubes either end-to-end -to form nanotube wires -- or side-by-side into tiny clusters called `micro-patterns'.