I am really happy that researchers over at Rice University figured out a way after nine years of hard work to produce carbon nanotubes at a scale that would make them as easy to manufacture as plastics but I am not sure that this is what was slowing their adoption in products.
We need only turn to the news at the beginning of this year to see how the Rice University spinout Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc., which was often touted for its invincible IP position in carbon nanotubes, became another cautionary tale in the business of nanotechnology.
The issue for carbon nanotubes is not how pure they are, how cheap they are to produce or even how dangerous they may be, but do they create enough added value to the products that they could be used for that they not only cover the material cost but the capital cost of altering industrial processes so that they can be used?
Even if producing carbon nanotubes was as cheap or cheaper than making a plastic, the real issue for plastics before it and now for carbon nanotubes is what do you do with the stuff?
Answer that question and you may see a scene like below played out at the graduation parties of recent college grads.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.