Secant Group Develops Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Fiber Structure for Aerospace and Satellite Applications

Oct 11, 2016
The discovery of carbon nanotubes (CNT) in 1991 ushered in a new era in materials science. These structures have unique electronic, magnetic and mechanical properties. CNT are at least 100 times stronger than steel, but only one-sixth as heavy, so nanotube fibers add strength to materials and structures. Nanotubes also conduct heat and electricity better than traditional metals or fibers. 

A carbon nanotube is a tube-shaped material, made of carbon, having a diameter measuring on the nanometer scale. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. Carbon nanotubes have many structures, differing in length, thickness, and number of layers. The characteristics of nanotubes can be different depending on how the graphene sheet has rolled up to form the tube causing it to act either metallic or as a semiconductor. The graphite layer that makes up the nanotube looks like rolled-up chicken wire with a continuous unbroken hexagonal mesh and carbon molecules at the apexes of the hexagons.


In 2011 Secant Group began working with a large aerospace company on a CNT fiber development  project.  The fiber is manufactured via chemical vapor deposition into an uncondensed tow that can be spun into the final fiber, plied together to make longer lengths, or stretched to enhance electrical and mechanical properties. It is composed of aligned bundles of CNTs hundreds of microns in diameter and millimeters long. Secant Group was the first company to successfully process the fiber into a textile form.  The initial samples the company produced were flown in space, as part of the International Space Station mission. Afterward, the samples were found in pristine condition except for an inconsequential thin layer of oxide. 

During the past year Secant Group has successfully manufactured several fabric structures  utilizing the CNT fibers. The fabric structures once tested were found to have twice the conductivity as our traditional gold molybdenumstructures. The significance of this technology breakthrough is that it will allow for the development of lower-cost, smaller satellites with the same bandwidth output capability of a much larger and more expensive satellite system. 

Secant Group is at the forefront of this exciting new technology.  We are currently weaving the material for the first time to create an electrically conductive fabric. This fabric will be flown in December on a classified Department of Defense mission. We look forward to continued opportunities to serve both the commercial and government markets as well as providing new and innovative applications for the CNT fibers.
Secant Group Develops Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Fiber Structure for Aerospace and Satellite Applications