Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are an allotrope of carbon. They take the form of cylindrical carbon molecules and have novel properties that make them potentially useful in a wide variety of applications in nanotechnology, electronics, optics and other fields of materials science. They exhibit extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties, and are efficient conductors of heat. Inorganic nanotubes have also been synthesized.
Nanotubes are members of the fullerene structural family, which also includes buckyballs. Whereas buckyballs are spherical in shape, a nanotube is cylindrical, with at least one end typically capped with a hemisphere of the buckyball structure. Their name is derived from their size, since the diameter of a nanotube is on the order of a few nanometers (approximately 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair), while they can be up to several millimeters in length. There are two main types of nanotubes: single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) and multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs).