Carbon nanotubes are possible because carbon has allotropic properties. That is to say, carbon can exist in more than one form. It can take the form of different lattices, or it can be a sphere. In our case, it is in a tubular or cylindrical form.
When carbon is structured this way, it develops some interesting and useful characteristics. This is why they have found a variety of applications in electronics, in resins, and as additives for structural materials. If you’ve ever held a carbon fiber baseball bat or golf club, you may very well have had your hands wrapped around carbon nanotubes.
We can determine the properties of carbon nanotubes by controlling the angles at which the carbon is rolled and the radius. This could decide whether a specific nanotube is a metal or a semiconductor, for instance.
Another characteristic of carbon nanotubes comes into play when determining its use; whether it a single-walled nanotube (SWNT) or a multi-walled nanotube (MWNT).
If it is a single-walled nanotube, it will be an outstanding conductor of electricity. So much so that it is being considered as the possible gateway to the next level of miniaturization in electronic components. It may be possible to actually construct field effect transistors at the molecular level. A multi-walled nanotube has as one of its strengths, the fact that it can withstand covalent functionalization without changing its basic mechanical or electrical properties. The fact that MWNTs are structured such that they have one tube inside of another, they can telescope and retract, making them excellent candidates for any future nanomechanical applications.
Because of their unique properties, once there is a practical, cost-effective method of producing carbon nanotubes,they will soon become an integral part of our lives.