Theoretical Green Applications of Carbon Nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes are basically carbon molecules that are arranged in a cylindrical geometry. The material is popularly known in the scientific realm as one of the strongest materials ever fabricated yet. In fact, it is so strong, its theoretical structural applications actually now reach the long lost dream of building the fabled space elevator first envisioned by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.
We are not going to talk about its incredible tensile strength here though. The exact wrapped hexagonal lattice structure of carbon nanotubes also lets it exhibit other more important special properties than just its near indestructibility. Its unique electrical properties in particular, allow it to be a good theoretical “candidate material” in many green technology applications.
Carbon Nanotube Paper Batteries
While the term “paper battery” may simply be used to describe any kind of battery that is made as thin as a sheet of paper, the standard definition of a paper battery is the type of battery that actually uses cellulose (a key ingredient of paper) as the substrate of the material used as the electrode. In a carbon nanotube paper battery setup, the carbon nanotubes are infused to the cellulose sheet and are perfectly aligned to ensure that the nanotube structure is preserved. In theory, it could be a lot more efficient than current batteries because it does not incorporate too many different materials in its design, not to mention that it also does not contain harmful substances usually found on current batteries.
Carbon Nanotube Supercapacitors
As a source of constant energy, the carbon nanotube paper battery could simply provide the valuable attribute of longevity and efficiency to keep gadgets and electronic items working in their optimal condition for a long time. However in principle, carbon nanotubes are simply made to hold electrons. In this regard, we could consider any advanced carbon nanotube battery as a supercapacitor, capable of storing up and instantly generating variable energy bursts depending on the current energy requirements of the machine or gadget that it powers.
Hydrogen “Tanks” Made from Carbon Nanotubes
Small carbon nanotubes have special capillary effects, since the space inside each tube is very, very tiny. This fact could theoretically make carbon nanotubes a great storage medium for gases, especially hydrogen, which is traditionally quite laborious and energy costly to keep and store. The basic method of hydrogen storage via carbon nanotubes would still incorporate the preliminary gas condensation procedure. However, storage can be done without having to turn the gas into liquid form first. The high-density gas material would simply be stopped short from escaping by the tiny, but very durable single-walled nanotubes.
Solar Panels with Carbon Nanotubes
Speaking of single-walled nanotubes, the exact same nanotube configuration could also be used to amplify the energy absorption and transformation capabilities of current solar panels. Carbon nanotubes are particularly efficient in absorbing light frequencies within the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared spectrum. Even when using the impure (unaligned) form of carbon nanotubes, current theoretical designs of carbon nanotube solar panels could easily beat current solar cells in terms of cost/performance efficiency.
Please take note that carbon nanotubes are only capable of achieving all of its theoretical uses when we are able to keep the structure of the nanotubes intact throughout the material. As of now, perfect alignment of each carbon nanotube is extremely difficult, so we probably won’t be seeing the perfected versions of these applications until much later in the 21st century.
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