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  • Writer's pictureElina Isaeva

Nanoscale game-changers. Part 1: SWCNT (Single-walled Carbon Nanotubes)

Nanoscale game-changers. Part 1: SWCNT (Single-walled Carbon Nanotubes)

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) are cylindrical structures consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms rolled into a tube. SWCNT have unique physical, chemical and mechanical properties that make them extremely promising for various applications.


The use of SWCNT in electronics

One of the key advantages of SWCNT in electronics is their ability to act as semiconductors or metallic conductors, depending on their chirality (Fig.1). Single-walled carbon nanotubes have high electron mobility, which makes them ideal for creating high-performance transistors and other electronic components. SWCNT also has a high thermal conductivity, which makes it possible to effectively remove heat from the active elements.


Figure 1. Different chirality of SWCNT
Figure 1. Different chirality of SWCNT

One of the most promising applications of CNT is field effect transistors (CNTFETs). For example, IBM is actively exploring the possibilities of using single-walled carbon nanotubes to create transistors that could replace silicon transistors in the future. In 2015, IBM demonstrated an SWCNT-based transistor that is capable of operating at frequencies up to 10 GHz (Fig.2).


Figure 2. CNT in field effect transistors: a),b) – schematic diagrams; c) SEM image on CNTFET
Figure 2. CNT in field effect transistors: a),b) – schematic diagrams; c) SEM image on CNTFET

Another applications took place in companies such as Samsung and LG which are  exploring the possibilities of using single-walled carbon nanotubes in flexible displays and sensors. SWCNT allow to create displays with high resolution and low power consumption. Also, Eikos develops transparent conductive films based on SWCNT that can be used in touchscreens, solar panels and displays.

According to a MarketsandMarkets study, the carbon nanotube market expects significant growth, from $4.55 billion in 2020 to $9.84 billion by 2025, with an average annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.7%. The increasing demand for nanotubes in electronics is one of the key drivers of this growth.

 

The use of SWCNT in medicine

In medicine, single-walled carbon nanotubes is used due to their unique physical and chemical properties, such as high surface, biocompatibility and the possibility of functionalization. These properties make SWCNT ideal for use in biosensors, drug delivery systems, and diagnostics.

Single-walled carbon nanotubes are used to create highly sensitive biosensors capable of detecting low concentrations of biomolecules. For example, Nanomix has developed biosensors based on SWCNT for the rapid diagnosis of diseases such as myocardial infarction.

SWCNT can also be functionalized for targeted drug delivery to cells. This reduces side effects and increases the effectiveness of treatment. For example, Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals uses nanotechnology to develop RNA drug delivery systems (Fig.3).


Figure 3. CNR as an RNA drug delivery system.
Figure 3. CNR as an RNA drug delivery system.

Figure 3. CNR as an RNA drug delivery system.


SWCNT can be used in optical and electrochemical diagnostic systems to detect various diseases. They provide high sensitivity and specificity, which makes it possible to accurately diagnose diseases in the early stages.

The medical use of single-walled carbon nanotubes is at an early stage, but significant growth is expected in the coming years. According to a study by Grand View Research, the global medical nanotechnology market will reach $261.06 billion by 2025, with SWCNT playing an important role in this growth due to their unique properties and a wide range of possible applications.

 

The use of SWCNT in the energy sector

SWCNT is used in the energy sector due to its high electrical and thermal characteristics. They are used in the development of new generations of batteries, supercapacitors and fuel cells, which contributes to the creation of more efficient and durable energy sources.

Single-walled carbon nanotubes are used to improve the capacity and cyclic stability of lithium-ion batteries. For example, Tesla is exploring the possibility of using nanotubes in batteries to increase their energy density and durability.

SWCNT are used in supercapacitors to increase their capacity and charge/discharge rate. Maxwell Technologies is developing nanotube-based supercapacitors that can be used in electric vehicles and renewable energy sources.

Also, SWCNT are used in membrane electrode assemblies of fuel cells to improve their conductivity and durability. Ballard Power Systems is exploring the use of nanotubes in its products to increase their efficiency.

According to a Research and Markets report, the global energy nanotechnology market will grow from $9.8 billion in 2020 to $27.8 billion by 2027, with an average annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16%. The increased use of nanotubes in batteries and supercapacitors is a key driver of this growth.

 

Future opportunities and prospects of SWCNT

Single-walled carbon nanotubes continue to find new applications due to their unique properties. The development of new electronic devices provides opportunity where SWCNT will be used in the creation of more compact and powerful electronic devices such as quantum computers and flexible wearable devices.

SWCNT will play an important role in the development of personalized medicine, where accurate diagnosis and targeted drug delivery will become the standard.

Improving energy technologies CST will contribute to the creation of more efficient and environmentally friendly energy sources, which is important for the transition to renewable energy sources and reducing the carbon footprint.

Single-walled carbon nanotubes are a revolutionary material that finds applications in various fields, including electronics, medicine and energy. The unique properties of SWCNT make them indispensable in the creation of high-performance transistors, biosensors, drug delivery systems, batteries and supercapacitors. Current research and innovations in the field of SWCNT open up new opportunities and prospects for their use in the future. With the growth of the market and the development of technology, single-walled carbon nanotubes will play an increasingly important role in various industries, contributing to the creation of new technologies and improving the quality of life.

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