Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene: Rival Rock Stars?

The best summation I’ve seen of a recent article that states that graphene has achieved a “rock star” status was a Tweet from Cientifica: “Graphene is Elvis & Nanotubes are Carl Perkins?”

That sounds about right. And as I recall Carl Perkins wrote and first recorded “Blue Suede Shoes” that Elvis eventually made into such a hit. Playing second fiddle to the younger upstart seems about how the relationship between carbon nanotubes and graphene is developing.

There seems to be an informed opinion out there that graphene is never going to go anywhere in electronics because of its lacking a band gap. But I am not so easily swayed by this line of argument because companies like IBM are investing so much time and effort in developing the material for electronics.

That said, it might be more likely that graphene will find its first applications outside of electronics, not unlike carbon nanotubes, which is still struggling to make an impact in electronics.

In fact, this is the point made by one of the Cornell University researchers who is cited in the initial article linked to at the top of this page.

"People often focus on the electronic applications of graphene, and they don't really think as much of its mechanical applications," said Robert A. Barton, graduate student and lead author of an American Vacuum Society online review article, Sept. 9, about graphene's present and future.

As rival rock stars go, it should be interesting to see how the relationship between the two stars of carbon nanotubes and graphene plays out over time.



IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

Dexter Johnson
Madrid, Spain