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It may have taken more than 10 years for this nanotechnology breakthrough, but when it came, it was still a shock say researchers at Rice University, Houston, TX. A team of scientists from Rice, the Dutch firm Teijin Aramid, the U.S. Air Force, and Israel's Technion Institute unveiled a new carbon nanotube (CNT) fiber that looks and acts like textile thread and conducts electricity and heat like a metal wire.

"We finally have a nanotube fiber with properties that don't exist in any other material," said lead researcher Matteo Pasquali, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry at Rice. "It looks like black cotton thread but behaves like both metal wires and strong carbon fibers."

"The new CNT fibers have a thermal conductivity approaching that of the best graphite fibers but with 10 times greater electrical conductivity," said study co-author Marcin Otto, business development manager at Teijin Aramid. "Graphite fibers are also brittle, while the new fibers are as flexible and tough as a textile thread. We expect this combination of properties will lead to new products with unique capabilities."

The fibers have about 10 times the tensile strength and electrical and thermal conductivity of the best previously reported wet-spun CNT fibers, Pasquali said. The specific electrical conductivity of the new fibers is on par with copper, gold, and aluminum wires, but the new material has advantages over metal wires.

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