the Times UK claims Alan Windle’s team at Cambridge University has created the world’s strongest ribbon: a cylindrical strand of carbon that combines lightweight flexibility with incredible strength and has the potential to stretch vast distances.
The Cambridge team is making about 1 gram of the high-tech material per day, enough to stretch to 18 miles in length. “We have Nasa on the phone asking for 144,000 miles of the stuff, but there is a difference between what can be achieved in a lab and on an industrial level,” says Alan Windle, professor of materials science at Cambridge University, who is anxious not to let the work get ahead of itself.
How long is the carbon nanotube fiber ?
How strong is this carbon nanotube fiber ?
We will update when information becomes available.
The fibre created in Cambridge is very strong, lightweight and good at absorbing energy in the form of fragments travelling at very high velocity.
Our fibre is up there with the existing high performance fibres such as Kevlar”, said Professor Windle.
But he added: “We’ve seen bits that are much better than Kevlar in all respects”.
A hydrocarbon feedstock, such as ethanol, is injected into the furnace along with a small amount of iron-based catalyst.
Inside the furnace, this feedstock is broken down into hydrogen and carbon. The carbon is then chemically “re-built” on particles of iron catalyst as long, thin-walled nanotubes.
To the eye, this “elastic smoke” looks a bit like an ever-expanding dark “sock”.
To begin winding it up, a rod is inserted into the furnace from below to grab one end of the sock and yank it down. This stretches the sock into a filament that can be wound up continuously on a reel.
The researchers are currently seeking funds to investigate whether the method can be upgraded from a laboratory to an industrial process.
Cambridge Enterprise Limited, the commercialisation office of the University of Cambridge, filed an initial patent application in July 2003.
It has now granted a licence to Q-Flo Limited, a university spin-out company, which will exploit the technology.