MOLECULAR REBAR® – taking nanomaterials to new heights

The conversion of clusters of multi-wall carbon nanotubes into individual, discrete nanotubes called MOLECULAR REBAR® for new applications

Carbon Nanotubes (CNT’s) have been extensively researched and promoted since the early 1990’s with Richard Smalley of Rice University as a leading proponent. Their intrinsic properties of very high specific stiffness and strength, excellent electron conductivity and the nanoscale geometry were fully expected to revolutionize various industries from electronics to advanced materials. This theoretical performance expectation justified globally intense research interest and expense (estimated to be $35 billion over the last 20+ years). Unfortunately, the promise and the commercial delivery did not match, and today, while CNT’s have a variety of uses, they are not as widely used as originally predicted. The purpose of this article is to illustrate with practical examples that carbon nanotubes, if made into a discrete and dispersible form, can reach their full theoretical properties and commercial potential.

The key technical issue is that carbon nanotubes, as produced in commercial processes such as a fluidized bed reactor, are entangled in micron sized, or larger, clumps that are difficult to separate while maintaining the desired length of the discrete nanotubes. As entangled micron sized clumps of materials, the nanotubes do not have the aspect ratio nor the nanoscale to deliver the theoretical properties needed to produce valued performance.