Imagine the electrical wires which are as light-weight as plastic, as cheap as carbon black, stronger then steel and at the same time can transport as much current as superconductors, and transfer signals of any frequency with negligible losses.
By using such a wire in an aircraft you can decrease the weight of its wiring by hundreds of kilograms which means = use less fuel, take more luggage and more people. Applying these wires as transmission lines you do not care for strong winds or heavy ice as they will simply not fail. Moreover, you can transfer your data not caring for losses thus paying less for surfing the Internet.
Finally, these wires are so environmentally friendly as you can produce them from greenhouse gases, then use as long as you wish with absolutely negligible energy waste, and if needed utilize back to greenhouse gases and turn into new ones. Exactly, SUCH A WIRE is our goal! And carbon nanomaterials have the potential to take us there.
Our team is working on many aspects of the development of the carbon wires, at the moment based mainly on carbon nanotube (CNT) fibres. Our research includes solving of engineering challenges such as electrical connections of CNT wires to other parts of electrical circuits (for further reading see soldering section) or providing these wires with proper electrical insulation which is an extremely important part of any electrical wire. The insulation has three main functions. It allows the wires to be separated from other conducting parts of the circuit – in other words prevents short-circuits. The insulation also protects humans and animals from electric shock. Finally, it can shield the wires from the surroundings and for example prevent corrosion.
Although, coating the CNT fibres with standard insulating polymers may seem tricky as the fibres are very porous and highly likely to get infiltrated with the polymers, we have shown that the problem is actually not as scary as it seems. After following some scientific principles we were able to develop an inexpensive and effective insulation.
We focus also on the improvement of the electrical performance of the CNT wires such as improvement of the best possible electrical conductivity or current carrying capacity. We try to reach these goals by the synthesis of fibres with proper composition and structure (for further reading see synthesis section) and post-treatment by for example chemical methods.
Our research interest spans from the transport of direct current (DC—think a car battery) to the upper reaches of the electromagnetic spectrum. The very recent exciting results show that at billions of cycles per second (GHz—think cell phones and aircraft radar), the conductivity of our CNT wires improves dramatically— totally opposite to the behaviour of everyday metals.
Day by day our knowledge and excitement about CNT wires increases. We believe that these novel cables will revolutionize the way people think about transport of electricity.