Year of the nanotube

Nanotechnology remains a challenging science. But carbon nanotechnology may finally be emerging from the lab.

carbon nanotubeFor nearly 25 years now, ever since the discovery of the Carbon-60 "Buckyball" at Rice University, scientists have been trying to find uses for what is now called nanotechnology.

Those uses are now coming thick and fast.

In November I wrote how carbon nanotubes could be targeted at tiny tumors then zapped with radio waves, killing the cancer. We know they can be well-tolerated within the body, even filmed.

Their structures have provided a link between biologic and non-biologic processes. And we all know about that blacker black.

Now the pace of discovery is accelerating. We have two releases on the same day:

  1. Nanotubes could be the key to curing radiation sickness. DARPA has given Rice and neighboring institutions $540,000 to investigate this.
  2. Nanotubes could be embedded in the body and deliver X-Ray images as detailed as CAT scans. There is a patent application here for nanotubes as imaging agents.

Nanotechnology remains a challenging science. But carbon nanotechnology may finally be emerging from the lab.

It's hard to predict nanotube supply because new production methods seem to be discovered constantly. Each new method threatens the economic viability of earlier methods, promising higher yields and lower costs.

But the market is finally deciding to jump on the opportunity. Bayer is just the latest company to announce an expansion of its production capacity. One new production line in Germany can produce 30 metric tons of the stuff each year.

That, combined with continuing breakthroughs in the use of nanotubes to treat disease, mean the carbon nanotube revolution in medicine is now right on top of us.

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