Reinforced racquets and heated wallpaper

May 18, 2006
Reinforced racquets and heated wallpaper
The tennis racquet with carbon nanotube inserts is particularly stress-resistant and shock-absorbent. © Fraunhofer TEG

Extremely conductive, stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum – these are only a few of the amazing properties of carbon nanotubes. An innovative method now enables the "miracle material" to be processed on an industrial scale.

Ever since they were first discovered in 1991, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have inspired the imagination of scientists and entrepreneurs alike. They are extremely conductive, robust and lightweight. While it is meanwhile no longer difficult to manufacture nanotubes as a raw material, there are still hardly any finished products, for the material has a serious drawback: CNTs do not bind readily with other materials and stubbornly resist incorporation in the majority of production processes.

Engineers at the Fraunhofer Technology Development Group TEG in Stuttgart have at last devised a method that enables the eccentric material to be processed at low cost. Industrial mass production is possible at last. Among the first products to contain semi-finished CNT products from the TEG are the Völkl DNX tennis racquets. They have proved an outstanding success: the original plan was to manufacture 90,000 racquets, but they are selling so fast that production will probably be ramped up. "Carbon nanotubes are used to reinforce the frame at the points subjected to the greatest stress and improve the racquet's ability to absorb shocks", explains project manager Ivica Kolaric.

Kolaric and his team at the Stuttgart CNT applications laboratory are currently producing their semi-finished CNT products in paper form. The sheets look like black art paper and cost just a few euros per square meter. "We are not tied to any particular shape, though", stresses Kolaric. The CNT composite system can be mixed with many different materials and combines just as easily with plastics as with textiles. Reinforced tennis racquets are only one of many potential applications.

The researcher believes that the greatest potential for creating new products at the present time lies in harnessing the electrical properties of nanotubes to generate heat. The material is not only extremely light and robust, but can also very efficiently heat up surfaces of any size. In their various experimental applications for CNTs, the Stuttgart engineers have embedded them in kidney belts or used them to de-ice mirrors, achieving a high degree of efficiency. "The potential applications are virtually unlimited – they range from electric blankets and heatable aircraft wings that no longer ice up, through to wallpaper heating for cold walls", claims Kolaric.

Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Explore further: United States, China team explore energy harvesting

Related Stories

From tobacco to cyberwood

Mar 30, 2015

Swiss scientists from ETH Zurich have developed a thermometer that is at least 100 times more sensitive than previous temperature sensors. It consists of a bio-synthetic hybrid material of tobacco cells and nanotubes.

Towards "printed" organic solar cells and LEDs

Mar 18, 2015

Flexible optoelectronic devices that can be produced roll-to-roll – much like newspapers are printed – are a highly promising path to cheaper devices such as solar cells and LED lighting panels. Scientists ...

Hydrocarbon photocatalysts get in shape and go for gold

Mar 10, 2015

A combination of semiconductor catalysts, optimum catalyst shape, gold-copper co-catalyst alloy nanoparticles and hydrous hydrazine reducing agent enables an increase of hydrocarbon generation from CO2 by a facto ...

Recommended for you

United States, China team explore energy harvesting

Apr 18, 2015

Six authors have described their work in harvesting energy in a paper titled "Ultrathin, Rollable, Paper-Based Triboelectric Nanogenerator for Acoustic Energy Harvesting and Self-Powered Sound Recording." ...

The microscopic topography of ink on paper

Apr 14, 2015

A team of Finnish scientists has found a new way to examine the ancient art of putting ink to paper in unprecedented 3-D detail. The technique could improve scientists' understanding of how ink sticks to ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.