NANOMATERIALS Nanotubes reveal their true strength

Eric A. Stach, Birck Nanotechnology Center and School of Materials Engineering, Purdue University

Date of this Version


This document has been peer-reviewed.



Humankind has made continuous efforts to improve the mechanical performance of materials, with different eras of history being named after specific developments in metallurgical technology such as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Since their discovery in the early 1990s, carbon nanotubes have attracted extraordinary attention as potentially revolutionary mechanical elements: they are inherently light and stiff, and have been predicted to be extraordinarily strong. However, experimental values of various mechanical properties have always been much lower than theoretical predictions. On page 626 of this issue Horacio Espinosa and co-workers at Northwestern University and the Argonne National Laboratory report experimental results that, for the first time, show that multi-walled carbon nanotubes can have failure strengths and strains near those that have been predicted by quantum mechanical simulations. Moreover, they report that creating controlled mechanical linkages between the different walls of a nanotube can increase the maximum load that can be supported, offering the promise of even greater utility.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology