Carbon nanotube technology holds promise for myriad military and aerospace system designs and applications, such as shielding and a replacement for copper.
How do systems designers view carbon nanotube technology?
System designers are now seeing the possibilities of using carbon nanotubes in new applications for electronics, electrical wires and cables, and shielding of large-scale aircraft.
What applications does carbon nanotube technology have for aerospace and defense electronics?
In the short term, it is replacing copper wire and cable because it is much lighter weight. It represents a bridge between today's electron-based copper materials and optical fiber. Optical cables are being used to save weight; new, lightweight carbon nanotube systems actually save the same kind of weight, but still stay with the same electron-based connector systems that engineers are using today.
[Another application] is electro-magnetic interference (EMI) shielding. For example, carbon-based composite aircraft often get residual current from lightning strikes. They use metal to protect the aircraft, but residual current is still present.
Carbon nanotube lightweight material is being used for EMI shielding and shielding internally. It enables better shielding for basically the weight of a coat of paint, and allows you to shield the internals of a carbon-fiberbased airplane.
What do you see as future applications for carbon nanotube technology?
Clearly, you'd want to say that [it] can go into composites. Carbon nanotubes have at least the tensile strength of carbon fiber, but they are quite flexible. They don't have the same brittleness, so the strain to failure is different. They're able to be in a fabric-like format, where they can be put into the composite themselves or be the composite themselves.
One can imagine that the surface of a wing would be structural. It would de-ice itself. It could be the antenna. It could report back to the aircraft and say, 'we are or are not integral.'
You have enormous numbers of multifunctional applications that carbon nanotube technology can bring to aircraft and spacecraft.
What do you see as the future of carbon nanotube technology itself?
The greatest challenge is being able to drive scale to volume and decrease cost. It's great to have a cable that's 69 percent lighter weight, but you have to be able to produce it in a format and at a cost that can be broadly used by aircraft engineers. So, the future is: driving up the output, decreasing cost, and eventually getting broadly used across the entire industry.
NAME: Peter Antoinette
TITLE: Chief Executive Officer
COMPANY: Nanocomp Technologies Inc.
ROLE: Provider of technology for carbon nanotubes and application-focused, nanotube-based products.