Carbon nanotubes, similar to small graphite coiled sheets with nanometric diameters and lengths about microns, constitute a unique material with exceptional mechanical, electrical, optical, thermal and chemical properties which make them suitable to improve numerous already existing products and to even generate other new ones. Many are the applications that can take advantage of the properties of carbon nanotubes. Composite materials reinforced with nanotubes, flat screens that use the nanotubes as field emitters, biological and chemical sensors used to detect polluting substances, drug administration or fuel cells are only some of them. In general, sectors like electronics, materials, sensors, biotechnology, chemistry, energy, mechanics, scientific instrumentation and photonics could get many advantages from the introduction of carbon nanotubes in many of their products.
The yearly ascending tendency in the number of publications that treat of carbon nanotube applications shows the great interest existing about them. EE.UU. is the world-wide leader in number of publications, but Asia is also an important region, partly due to the presence in it of very important electronic companies which can obtain great benefits when incorporating carbon nanotubes to their products. Although Europe appears in third place in number of publications, its contribution to the research and development of carbon nanotube applications is also very important, clearly betting on these new technologies.
The market of carbon nanotube applications is still very incipient. Only composite materials reinforced with nanotubes appear in sport accessories like tennis rackets or bicycles. Electronic applications are very promising since carbon nanotubes will allow them to continue with the progressive miniaturization typical of this area which is at present threatened by the physical limits of operation of silicon, near to be reached. Nevertheless there are only electronic prototypes that incorporate carbon nanotubes, there are no commercial products due to the lack of suitable industrial processes for their elaboration. The other technologies that incorporate carbon nanotubes show different degrees of maturity in their access to the market, but they are not commercialized yet. Carbon nanotubes appear like an interesting alternative for the manufacturers of multiple products who are interested in innovating, since they promise to produce incredible benefits and to revolutionize the market when they burst into it.
Rivas Martínez, María Jesús; Román Ganzer, José; y Cosme Huertas, María Luisa. Aplicaciones actuales y futuras de los nanotubos de carbono. Informe de vigilancia tecnológica. Vt miod 11.