With the advances made in science concerning carbon nanotubes and their ability to lower the costs of nearly everything in existence, the question looms ahead: how much do nanotubes cost and is the monetary cost worth the change they would create in the world?
Every day, as you move about in the world, you wonder how costs go up for everything in your daily life—the cost of homes, the cost of cars, the cost of gas and the cost of groceries. It seems that the cost of living goes up with each passing day, and that there is no reprieve in sight. But what is there was something that could change everything?
What if there was a natural element on Earth that could be used to change the way we live, the way we think and the amount of money that we spend on everyday products and services, as well as replacement products and services? That natural element is here: how much do nanotubes cost as well as the research to be performed that this element is not being mass-produced and used in the production of a wide variety of products?
In 1991, Sumio Iijima, a Japanese scientist, discovered carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are essentially a sheet of graphite that has been rolled, much the way you roll a tortilla or a cigarette. The act of rolling this sheet of latticework-esque, hexagonal carbon results in the creation of the carbon nanotube, one of the most unique and usable macromolecules ever discovered by science.
As with everything, however, the cost of these carbon nanotubes is a key determining factor in whether or not they will be used, regardless of how well they could be used. When looking at the question of how much do nanotubes cost, you’ve got to start with the costs that can potentially be lowered by their use.
In early 2009, it was reported that carbon nanotubes had the potential to lower the cost of fuel cells, which make up the ultra-expensive platinum catalysts used in some passenger cars—for reference, the platinum catalysts in a passenger car typically costs around four thousand dollars ($4000). But it was a research team at the University of Dayton in June 2009 that discovered the ability to use a throng of carbon nanotubes to do the same job that the platinum catalyst does.
While no researchers, including the University of Dayton, have built a full prototype yet, and the full cost of carbon nanotube catalysts is as yet unkown, the implications for this new method of using fuel cells in passenger cars are great.
The realities for the automobile industry are that platinum is extremely rare and expensive to work with, whereas carbon is relatively cheap and extremely plentiful. This feature of carbon alone makes it more attractive to work with, as it will be cheaper and easier to get a hold of, answering the question of how much do nanotubes cost, with a sound not enough to stop us from using them.
In addition to the automobile industry, NASA and the space aeronautics industry are also using the technology of carbon nanotubes to change the face of science and space. Idaho Space Materials has been using a manufacturing process from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to manufacture single walled carbon nanotubes. This manufacturing process has not only increased the company’s ability to mass produce at a quicker rate, but they have done so without the loss of quality or effectiveness in the end product.
At Idaho Space Materials, carbon nanotubes are being produced at a rate of 50 grams per hour. In addition, because the company is able to produce such a great amount of carbon nanotubes so quickly, they are able to offer it to researchers and to non-profit groups at a heavily reduced cost. This in turn makes it economically feasible for these types of groups to work on producing the facts and evidence for real world application of carbon nanotubes.
For these organizations, the question “How much do nanotubes cost” is answered with a stout, “Little enough that we can afford to change with the world with them”. Even NASA is currently purchasing single walled carbon nanotubes from Idaho Space Materials at near rock bottom prices to test in the creation of new space materials and scientific exploits.
But how much do carbon nanotubes cost to acquire or make? That depends on where you’re purchasing them, when you’re purchasing them and who you’re purchasing them from, not to mention who you are and what you’re going to be using them for. For Idaho Space Materials, researchers, NASA and non-profit organizations get first dibs on the low cost carbon nanotubes, but what if you don’t fit into one of these organizational structures?
How much do nanotubes cost if you’re a regular, for profit business that wants to implement the use of carbon nanotubes into your own products and manufacturing processes?
One company, Cheap Tubes, Inc. has been manufacturing and selling carbon nanotubes since 2005 and at the time of the announcement were making single walled carbon nanotubes available for both research and industrial purposing. In 2005, the answer to the question, “How much do nanotubes cost” was “forty cents per gram when you purchase a metric ton”—for reference, a metric ton is the equivalent of one million grams. In 2008, the cost of purchasing carbon nanotubes from Cheap Tubes, Inc. had more than doubled and the answer the answer to how much do nanotubes cost rose to ninety five cents per gram.
This was due at the time to the rising demand for carbon nanotubes when manufacturing could not keep up with the demand in the worldwide marketplace.
Looking across the marketplace today, it’s easy to see that supply and demand continues to play in favor of the manufacturers, where there is much more demand than there is product available. And the answer today to the ever resounding question, “how much do nanotubes cost” is “anywhere from $95 to $500 per gram.”