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VeilleNanos - Carbon nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes

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Carbon nanotubes

By the AVICENN team – Last added June 2022

There are different types of carbon nanotubes

Discovered two decades ago, carbon nanotubes are a new form of carbon.

There is a large variety of them and their physico-chemical characteristics vary according to their manufacturing or implementation process.

These nano-objects are sheets of graphene wound on themselves, forming hollow cylinders, with at least two dimensions in the nanoscale.

They can be divided into two main groups:

  • Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), which are made of a sheet of graphene, wound in the form of a cylindrical tube,
  • multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) made up of several concentric tubes.

Their average diameter varies from a nanometer (SWCNT) to a few tens of nanometers (MWCNT), up to 100 nm.

Their length also varies from a few micrometers to a few hundred micrometers, it can even reach several meters in some cases.

What properties?

Because of their exceptional properties – electrical conductivity, mechanical strength and thermal conductivity – carbon nanotubes have been touted as revolutionary materials for industrial sectors such as electronics, aerospace or nanomedicine.

The importance of their “length to diameter” ratio gives carbon nanotubes very specific properties, which are exploited or coveted:

  • for materials (electrostatic dissipation, mechanical reinforcement),
  • for coatings (electrical conductivity to adhesives and inks for example),
  • for energy (extending the life of energy storage systems by allowing a greater number of charge/discharge cycles; increasing the performance of li-ion batteries)
  • for catalysis
  • for the medical field1Cf. Saito, N. et al. Future Prospects for Clinical Applications of Nanocarbons Focusing on Carbon Nanotubes. Advanced sciences, 2022 These include drug delivery, imaging and even medical devices.

Yet, at the end of 2017, the “miracle” seems to have failed to materialize; functional industrial applications seem to be rare. Carbon nanotubes are difficult to combine with other materials, or when they can be combined, can lose the properties for which they were made2Fine felted nanotubes CAU research team develops new composite material made of carbon nanotubes, Kiel University, November 21, 2017.

How much is on the market?

As of 2016, between one and ten tons* of carbon nanotubes had been reported to the R-nano registry as having been produced and/or imported into France in 2015.
But in 2019, less than 1 kg was reported in total nationally for 2018. This range illustrates the weight given by the public authorities to industrial and commercial secrecy, which prevents us from having a good understanding of the quantities and uses of these particles, despite the increasingly pressing requests for information from a growing number of actors. But above all, it is little compared to what the announcements around the promises of carbon nanotubes suggested.

Some production sites (and difficulties)

What are the risks?

The intrinsic physicochemical properties of carbon nanotubes raise many concerns about their effects on human health.

In view of the deleterious effects that may be caused by certain carbon nanotubes (long nanotubes, which cause damage comparable to that caused by asbestos in the lungs), a classification is underway at the European level.

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Les prochains RDV nanos

NanoSafe conference 2023 (CEA, Grenoble)
  • 8th International Conference on Health Issues for a Responsible Approach to Nanomaterials
  • From June 5 to 9, 2023
  • Organizer: French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission(CEA)
  • Website:…
How the world deals with Materials on the Nanoscale – Responsible Use and Challenges (OECD-BMUV, Berlin)
  • International Conference from June 22 to 23, 2023
  • Organizers: OECD, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection(BMUV)
  • Website: https: //…
São Paulo School of Advanced Science on Nanotechnology, Agriculture & Environment (SPSAS NanoAgri&Enviro, São Paulo)
São Paulo
  • From July 3 to 15, 2023 in São Paulo
  • Organizer: FABESP
  • Application from November 18 to February 05. Registration fees and travel expenses are covered.
  • Speakers: see the complete program here.

This sheet was originally posted in July 2017

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