Each year, thousands of papers are published that explore carbon nanotubes. Since their discovery in the early 1990s by Sumio Iijima, who published a revolutionary paper in Nature, carbon nanotubes have been greatly investigated to understand more about the potential of this unique material.
Already, carbon nanotubes are being used in hundreds of applications in several sectors, and more papers are published each year, developing our knowledge of where carbon nanotubes can be used.
Carbon nanotubes are and will continue to be a vitally important material for numerous applications. In the coming years, we will see even more applications emerge, particularly in biomedical science.
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Applications of Carbon Nanotubes
Over the decades since the discovery of carbon nanotubes, their unique properties, such as higher thermal conductivity than diamond, greater mechanical strength than steel, and better electrical conductivity than copper, have been leveraged into a wealth of applications in a wide range of sectors.
Carbon nanotubes are used as inks to develop printed electronics; they have also shown success in photodetectors, logic inverters, and solar cells. In information sciences, they have been used in 5G high-frequency electronics. In materials synthesis, carbon nanotubes have also been used as flexible energy storage devices and in machine learning applications for materials discovery.
Healthcare and biomedical are two fields in which research into carbon nanotubes is particularly intense. Applications using carbon nanotubes in data processors and actuators, brain-machine interfaces, actuators for artificial muscles, and thin-film transistors for artificial skins have already been established.
Some of the biggest commercial applications of carbon nanotubes include their use in water purifiers, batteries, sports equipment, and vehicles. For example, U.S. company Seldon Technologies used carbon nanotubes to develop its “Nanomesh Purification Technology” which is used in its MineralWater System.
The technology filters the water using carbon nanotubes without harsh chemicals, heat, or power, which is vitally important to cleaning water in developing countries. The carbon nanotube filters remove bacteria, cysts, spores, and viruses from the water to meet or exceed the standard of the USEPA Drinking Water Standard.
Additionally, sporting goods manufacturer Wilson has been using carbon nanotubes for manufacturing tennis rackets since 2004 and Showa Denko has been using them to manufacture batteries.
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Hot Topics in Carbon Nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes are being intensely researched to understand how they might benefit a wide range of industries. Currently, their potential in biomedical applications is in the spotlight.
For example, research is exploring how carbon nanotubes can be used to develop devices that can detect glucose from biological fluids. These devices will be vitally important to establishing new, non-invasive methods of measuring daily glucose levels for people with diabetes.
Carbon nanotubes are also being explored in establishing targeted drug delivery for cancer therapy. So far, research has shown that carbon nanotubes can serve as drug carriers to deliver therapeutic agents directly to the malignancy as well as function as mediators in phototherapy.
Additionally, a lot of attention is being given to how carbon nanotubes will be leveraged to help further progress the revolution of the Internet of Things (IoT). We live in an increasingly connected world, where we rely on internet-connected devices to do a wide range of tasks both at home and at work. It is predicted that advances in our understanding of carbon nanotubes will be leveraged into building more sensitive, intuitive, accurate, and powerful connected devices that will help to further fuel the era of the IoT.
Current Global Market of Carbon Nanotubes
The global carbon nanotube market was valued at $34 billion in 2021 and is predicted to grow at an impressive CAGR of 13.35% between 2022 and 2030 to reach a valuation of $105 billion. Currently, Asia Pacific holds the largest market share, but the fastest-growing region is North America. This is unsurprising, given that China and the U.S. are the most important manufacturers and exporters of carbon nanotubes.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reduced both regions’ capacity to produce and export carbon nanotubes. Like most industries, factors such as regional and global restrictions on movement, government stay-at-home orders, global supply chain disruptions, employee sickness, and the subsequent stalling of the economy hindered the carbon nanotubes market. Still, in the new few years, it is expected that the market will bounce back.
In several nations in Asia Pacific, including China, India, Japan, and Malaysia, considerable growth is predicted in various industries such as automotive, construction, electronics, and aerospace. Additionally, China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea will experience rapid growth in electronics manufacturing. These industries are linked with the carbon nanotube market, as research is developing numerous material applications in these sectors.
Growth in these industries will drive growth in the carbon nanotube market in Asia Pacific. Finally, growth in the consumer electronics space in Asia Pacific will further help to strengthen its position in the global carbon nanotubes market.
North America and Europe are expected to witness rapid growth over the forecast period, particularly as many major manufacturers are located in these regions. There is also an increasing demand in North America and Europe for carbon nanotubes for applications in green energy and polymer manufacture. Currently, North America is the second largest market for carbon nanotubes; by 2030, it is possible that this region may have claimed the largest share of the market due to funding the research institutes located in this region.
Key market players include Arkema S.A., Cabot Corporation, Chasm Advanced Materials Inc., Showa Denko K.K., Thomas Swan and Co. Ltd., Tokyo Chemical Industry Co. Ltd., Toray Industries Inc., Cheap Tubes, Hyperion Catalysis International., LG Chem, Nanoc, Nanocyl SA, Nanostructured & Amorphous Materials Inc., Nopo Nanotechnologies, Ossila Ltd., Jiangsu Tiannai Technology Co. Ltd., Clean Industries Inc., Kumho Petrochemical, and Raymor Industries Inc.
Future Directions for Carbon Nanotubes
The carbon nanotubes sector may develop in several ways, given its vast and growing number of applications. It is likely, however, that the coming years will see significant development in biomedical applications of carbon nanotubes, in addition to electronics applications –particularly those relevant to the IoT.
Carbon nanotubes are still in their infancy, and it is likely to take several more decades to realize the full potential of this unique material. Funding will play an important role in accelerating the development of the industry. Given that demand and research interest are already well established, financing may be the most important potential limiting factor.
References and Further Reading
Bekyarova, E. et al. (2005) “Applications of carbon nanotubes in biotechnology and biomedicine,” Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, 1(1), pp. 3–17. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1166/jbn.2005.004.
Carbon Nanotubes Market [online]. Precedence Research. Available at: https://www.precedenceresearch.com/carbon-nanotubes-market
Murjani, B.O. et al. (2022) “Carbon nanotubes in biomedical applications: Current status, promises, and challenges,” Carbon Letters, 32(5), pp. 1207–1226. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42823-022-00364-4.
Pang, J. et al. (2021) “Applications of carbon nanotubes in the internet of things era,” Nano-Micro Letters, 13(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40820-021-00721-4.