Carbon is a miraculous element, and we continue to discover new forms and uses for it. Carbon nanotubes are of interest for their strength and ability to conduct electricity. “Buckyballs” (also known as fullerene) are soccer-ball shaped spheres of carbon atoms that have remarkable properties of their own. Now a company called Canatu has developed a way to combine the best of both of these in the form of “Carbon NanoBuds” (CNB).
Carbon nanotubes tend to be chemically inert, which makes it difficult to combine them with other materials for useful functions. Canatu scientists have found a way to form Buckyball-type buds on the walls of carbon nanotubes, which create reactive points that do not detract from the nanotube’s other attractive features. The result is a substance that can be used for thin-film conductive layers that can be the building blocks for a wide variety of applications from displays to solar cells. The resulting flexible film can be bent and stretched without damaging its properties.
Initially, the company is focusing much of its attention on touch panels, as the CNB films are ideal for the projective capacitive touch technology that is commonly used on cell phones and tablets. The flexible nature of the films means that they are well suited for wearable applications. The company has also found ways to mold the films to match the 3D shape of objects. This means that wearable devices could have touch controls that are not a simple flat panel, but rather could be made up of bumps and other shapes to make it easier to control the device by touch.
CNBs are just one example of how materials science is rapidly expanding the boundaries of what is possible, giving wearable Health Tech product designers new options to use in creating new products and applications.