Carbon ‘candy floss’ could help prevent energy blackouts

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Posted June 28, 2013

Ultra-light, high performance electrical wiring, made from carbon instead of copper, has been developed in a usable form for the first time.

Super-strong wires made from carbon nanotubes, which could significantly improve the efficiency with which electricity is supplied across the UK have been developed in a usable form for the first time.

The wires are one tenth the weight of copper, and, if used in conventional systems, would also make vehicles more fuel efficient. The wires, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge can also be joined to conventional metal wires, which until now has not been possible, raising the prospect of hybrid energy networks.

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are extremely thin, hollow cylinders made of carbon atoms. They are among the stiffest and strongest fibres known, but the difficulty in precisely controlling their properties has meant that their practical applications have been limited until now.

Like graphene, CNTs are strong, lightweight and flexible. The angle, or chirality, at which the sheets of graphene are rolled determines the properties of the nanotubes: whether they are metallic, semi-metallic, or semiconductors.

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