Nanotech Cables To Replace Metal Wiring?

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Could highly conductive nanotube-based cables be just as efficient as traditional metals, and at a sixth of the weight? Researchers at Rice University think so, and now they’ve got the initial proof.

Their recent study, published on Nature magazine’s open-access Scientific Reports, sought to show that cables made of double-walled carbon nanotubes could be used to power a fluorescent light bulb at standard line voltage. To increase the conductivity of the cables, the team doped them with iodine (passing the one initial test when the cables remained stable).

Carbon Nanocable breakthrough, Yao Zhao

image via Rice University

They found that the conductivity-to-weight ratio (called specific conductivity) of these new carbon nanotubes beats most metals used to conduct electricity, including copper and silver, and places second only to the metal with highest specific conductivity, sodium.

The study’s lead author, Yao Zhao, left the bulb in the research lab burning for days, with no evidence of degradation in the nanotube cable. He and his colleagues believe that such technology may find widespread use first in applications where weight is a critical factor, such as airplanes and automobiles, but further in the future might even replace traditional wiring in homes.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.