What’s More Incredible than Carbon Nanotubes? Almost Nothing, Actually

Except maybe for this boat built by Zyvex Marine which has carbon nanotubes infused into its fiberglass…

zyvex marine LRV-17 nanotubes boat
LRV-17, image courtesy Zyvex Marine, click for larger
lrv-17 zyvex marine carbon nanotubes
Image courtesy Zyvex Marine

In case you didn’t know it, carbon nanotubes (CNT) may likely revolutionize the world we live in as the manufacturing technology surrounding the world’s strongest material continues to advance.  CNT is simply carbon atom sheets (graphene) rolled into a tube that has a very high ratio of length to material thickness, and a strength higher than any other material known.

When infused into materials such as fiberglass reinforced plastic, glass, or even metals, CNT greatly enhances the structure’s strength to weight ratio, which is exactly the result achieved by Zyvex Marine and the LRV-17, a high tech boat that has a hull made up of carbon nanotube-infused fiberglass.  Due to its unheard of strength-to-weight ratio, this vessel’s range is more than three times that of a comparatively-sized vessel.

carbon nanotube animation
Carbon nanotube animation, via Wikipedia

This is the first time nano-composites have been used as the primary material for a manned vessel.

Sounds pretty amazing right?  Well, it certainly is, and it’s becoming exponentially more feasible from a cost perspective.
To give you an idea, in 2008, a cubic centimeter of graphene would cost you about $100,000,000.  Nowadays, building a CNT-infused structure is actually much closer to the cost of carbon fiber.  Behind the scenes however, there’s a race to deliver a low cost, non vacuum, and common material manufacturing process for CNT, one that we hear is being run by the likes of ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin, and others.
How big of a deal is this?
Imagine if a process was found to produce CNT on a major scale, and you started building ships, or buildings out of CNT-infused materials.  How much more efficient would your ships be?  How much more product could you carry?   How much LESS would a container made of CNT-infused material weigh?
The cost savings will likely have many zeros to the right of the dollar sign…
LRV-17 Vessel specifications:

Length                           17.35 m (57 ft)
Beam                              3.6 m (11.9 ft)
Draft                              0.75 m (2.33 ft)
Sprint Speed                40+ kts*
Range                            1500+ nm*
Endurance                   100-150 hours*
Operators + Support  2 + 4
Fuel                                6435 L (1700 gal)
Lightship Weight       8000 kg (17900 lb)
*Range, Speed and Endurance dependent on final configuration