A Materal as Life-Changing as the Internet: Carbon Nanotubes

Remember when you first heard about the internet? If you are under 30, probably not, but you might remember hearing about that iPhone thing. For those alive and aware in the mid-90’s trickles of detail reached our ears about what could become of that clumsy, slow and hair-pulling-out frustrating internet. Those of us pretty young then had the free time to wait on long page loads and the willingness to buy into every bit of the hype…and this hype, even in its most grand form, fell short of the life-changing power of our now our intimately connected globe.

There is no way a simple material can have that same effect, right? Oh, it absolutely can…and will.

From T-shirt-thin bullet proof armor to ultra-light jumbo jets, feather-weight phones, tornado-proof frameless houses and, yes, even an elevator to space (this is an actual NASA-supported project, not Sci Fi). The impact does not stop with making things strong and light. Microprocessors and everything related will be different. The world will be different.

Growth of Carbon Nanotubes
Photo by NASA

This might sound grandiose. At one point, so did the thought that we could communicate across the globe visually and in realtime on a handheld computer from anywhere one wants…whenever one wants. This new material, called carbon nanotubes, has properties unlike anything humans have had access to before. In fact, even that rough sketch of the possibilities listed above falls short of the massive potential of a carbon nanotubes. I am a fan of science, not a scientist, so I will leave the molecular makeup of this material to the experts, but know this: it is one-hundred times stronger than steel and weighs only about a quarter of steel. That is simply amazing.

The most important fact is that this is real and happening right now…though scientists still have a long way to go before you see, for example, a few construction workers easily setting a massive carbon

Growing Patterns of Carbon Nanotubes or Nanofibers
Photo by NASA

nanotube wall in place without a single machine. Once indirectly and jokingly called “Unobtainium” because a material with the strength, weight and electrical properties of carbon nanotubes was thought to be unobtainable, it is currently being made and the process is being continually moved forward. Right now researchers have made strands measured by centimeters, so still not very long. This, as these things go, is just a matter of time and work before we are seeing more usable lengths.

What is very interesting about creating this material is that it can be grown. I am not an environmental alarmist in any way, but we all wanted the cleanest, most life-supporting world we can have. Think of those mines and logging forests we use now along with the steel mills and process needed with the impact of it all on the environment. Now, think of large “clean” rooms that quietly and safely grow the material we need. Wether it is grown or manufactured, it is possible that our centuries-long dependence on wood and steel, and their environmentally harmful effects, could end.

Put this all together and what could carbon nanotubes do for humans? It could provide a sustainable material in which most of the things we rely on to live, grow, play and stay safe are made better, lighter and stronger. Add to that, once impossible miracle-like projects become a reality with all sorts of doors opening for all our minds might want to invent. All of this while making our land, sea and air healthier, vibrant and more attractive. Again, this is make-believe…this is happening. Humans are amazing.

Originally published at News-Rebel.com!.