a collaborative effort, scientists at CSIRO Textile
and Fibre Technology (CTFT) have achieved a major technological
breakthrough that should soon lead to the production
of futuristic strong, light and flexible 'smart' clothing
In partnership with the world-renowned NanoTech Institute
at the University of Texas at Dallas, CTFT has adapted
textile technologies used to spin wool and other fibres
to produce yarns made solely from carbon nanotubes (CNTs).
CNTs have a range of unique physical properties –
including the ability to conduct electricity and heat
– which provide them with the potential to be used
in the manufacture of materials with a diverse range
research into the potential uses of the new material
is focussed on the production of vests and 'soft'
body armour to provide protection from bullets and
other small ballistic missiles. This application exploits
the excellent mechanical properties of the CNTs.
the ability to incorporate electronic sensors and
actuators into CNT yarn also makes it a potentially
valuable addition to the range of specialist materials
now being used in medical and military applications.
It could, for example, be used to produce garments
that act as electrically-driven 'muscles'.
an article in the latest edition of the prestigious
journal, Science, the ability to spin CNTs into yarn
is described as a major breakthrough. The significance
of the development is that it is expected to make
the manufacture of pure CNT yarns economically feasible.
CNT yarns, due to their unprecedented combination
of mechanical and electronic properties, are likely
to be used in electronic textiles and electron emitters
for ultra high-intensity fluorescent lamps.
development of spun CNT yarns is based on the concept
of scaling down the dimensions of conventional fibres
and yarns from the microscale to the nanoscale using
the ancient technology of twist-based spinning.
believe CNTs, either as pure yarns or composites,
will revolutionise engineered fabrics due to their
excellent strength and toughness and their high electrical
and thermal conductivities," says CTFT's research
team leader, Ken Atkinson.
The Science article describes the method of CNT yarn
formation and provides details of the properties of
the yarns produced.
US patent application on the new technology was recently
Ken Atkinson, CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology 61-3-5246-4803