The Incorporation Of Nanotechnology Biology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Nanotechnology has made an advanced development in the sports field. Tennis and golf are among the main sports which use the application of nanotechnology. In this full of challenges and competitive era, even a small change in the sports equipment can make a big difference in a sports competition. Therefore, nanotechnology perhaps is the most desired technology used in the improvement of sporting materials such as tennis racquets, racquet strings, golf balls and golf clubs by the incorporation of nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes (CNTs).

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs)

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are allotropes of carbon which comprises of cylindrical nanostructure. Its constructed length-to-diameter ratio can be up to 132,000.000:1, which is obviously bigger than for any other material. (Wang and et al., 2009) These cylindrical carbon molecules exhibit uncommon properties that can assist in the development of nanotechnology, optics, electronics as well as other fields which are related to science and technology. For your information, carbon nanotubes have been widely used owing to their special mechanical properties, electrical properties, kinetic properties, electrical properties, optical properties, strength, hardness and thermal conductivity. Nowadays, nanotubes have been used as additives to various structural materials which involve formation of tiny portion of materials in tennis racquet, baseball bats golf balls and others. (Gullapalli and Wang, 2011)

Nanotubes are one of the members for the fullerene structural family. Their name is originated from their hollow and long structure with the formation of walls by graphene. Graphene can be defined as carbons which consist of one-atom-thick sheets. These sheets have their specific and discontinuous rotation which makes up the nanotube properties. For example, we can tell whether the individual nanotube shell is a semiconductor or a metal based on their specific rotation angles. There are two types of nanotubes which include single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) and multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs). Van der Waals forces or more specifically pi-stacking are forces that held the ropes together. Arrangement of many individual nanotubes makes up the ropes. The orbital hybridisation for nanotubes is similar to those of graphite which consist entirely of sp2 bonds. The chemical bonding in nanotubes can be best explained by orbital hybridisation. Nanotubes possess extraordinary strength due to their stronger sp2 bonds than the sp3 bonds found in diamond and alkanes.

Types and Structure of Carbon Nanotubes

There are two categories of carbon nanotubes. The first one is the single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) and the other one is the multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs). Both of them have different structures that exhibit their own characteristics which suitable for different applications. (Todd Johnson, 2013)

Single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs)

Most of the single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) possess diameter of close to one nanometre. They are nanometer-diameter cylinders which are wrapped by a single graphene sheet to form a tube. They are either metals or semiconductors which are widely used due to its potential electrical properties. SWNT consists of a honeycomb graphitic lattice structure and a chain of linear acetylinic carbon. There are three types of single-walled nanotubes which include zigzag, armchair, and chiral. The three types of SWNTs can be distinguished based on the pattern across the diameter of the tubes. They can also be recognised by analysing their cross-sectional structure. (Wilson and et al., 2002) Therefore, a pair of indices (n,m) is used to represent how the graphene sheet is wrapped, where n and m indicates the number of unit vectors along two directions in the honey graphitic lattice structure. (Tara and Malcolm, 1996) Zigzag nanotubes are nanotubes which have m = 2, whereas the nanotubes are called armchair nanotubes if n = m. Figure below shows the structures of single-walled nanotubes which is adapted from (wikipedia).

C:\Users\KIM 2\Desktop\SWNT.jpg

Multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs)

Multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs) can come in an even more complicated arrangement. This is because every concentric single-walled nanotube (SWNT) can have their unique structures. Therefore, there are many sequential arrangements for multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs). In MWNTs, they are wrapped by multiple layers of graphene. MWNTs are quite similar with those of SWNTs in which they can either be metallic or semiconducting. MWNTs have morphology and properties similar to those of SWNTs. However, MWNTs have more improved resistance to chemicals. This creates an advantage in which functionalization can be carried out properly when new properties are added to the carbon nanotubes. MWNTs are widely used in nanomechanical devices due to their unique mechanical properties. Figure below shows the structure of MWNT which is adapted from (Surrey Materials Institute).

C:\Users\KIM 2\Desktop\MWNT.jpg

Properties of Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs)

(i) Mechanical Properties

Because of the tensile strength and the elastic modulus, carbon nanotubes are said to be the stiffest and the strongest composite materials. The formation of sp2 covalent bonds between the individual carbon atoms had contributed to their strength. According to Peng and et al., (2008), CNT shells were proved to have tensile strength of approximate 100 GPa, which is in agreement with quantum/atomistic models. The specific strength of CNT can up to 48,000 kN·m·kg−1 which is much more higher than 154 kN·m·kg−1 for high carbon steel. Therefore, CNT can be considered as the best of known materials. Because of the excessive tensile strain, the CNT will undergo plastic deformation. In other words, the deformation is permanent and starts at strains of approximately 5%. Releasing the strain energy can help to increase the maximum strain the tubes undergo before it factures. The strength of individual CNT shells is extremely high. However, Filleter and et al., (2011) proposed that weak shear interactions between adjacent shells and tubes could cause the effective strength of MWNTs and CNT bundles reduce down to only a few GPa. This weakness can be overcome by applying high energy electron irradiation, which crosslinks inner shells and tubes. Peng and et al., (2008) proved that this can effectively increase the tensile strength of CNTs to approximate 60 GPa for MWCNs.

Table below shows the comparison of mechanical properties between different types of carbon nanotubes (CNTS) and stainless steel. (Adapted from wikiepedia)


Young's Modulus (TPa)

Tensile Strength (GPa)

Elongation at break (%)


~1 (from 1 to 5)

13 - 53


Armchair SWNT




Zigzag SWNT



15.6 - 17.5

Chiral SWNT





0.2 - 0.95

11 - 150


Stainless Steel

0.186 - 0.214

0.38 - 1.55

15 - 50

(ii) Hardness

Standard single-walled carbon nanotubes can withstand a pressure up to 24 GPa without undergoing deformation. After that, they are transformed into superhard phase nanotubes. The superhard phase nanotubes can withstand a maximum pressure of 55 GPa by using current experimental technique. However, collapsing of these new superhard phase nanotubes will occur at even higher pressure. (Wikipedia)

(iii) Electrical Properties

The structure of a nanotube strongly influences the electrical properties due to the symmetry and special electronic structure of graphene. The nanotube will be metallic if n = m. If the value of n - m is a multiple of 3, then the nanotube will be considered as semiconductor with the presence of very small gap. An electric current density of  4 - 109 A/cm2 can be carried by a metallic nanotubes. The carried current density is more than 1,000 times larger than those of metals like copper. This is because electromigration limits the interconnection current densities of copper. (Hong and et al., 2007) According to Charlier and et al. (2007), the maximum electrical conductance of a single-walled carbon nanotube is 2G0, where G0 = 2e2/h, which is the conductance of a single ballistic quantum channel. They not only could replace copper as an electrical conductor but also replace silicon as a semiconductor.

(iv) Thermal properties

Thermal property is also one of the unique characteristics of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). They are highly conductive in heat with a thermal conductivity as great as diamond. Thus, this makes CNT to be a very good thermal conductor along the tube which exhibits a property known as ballistic conduction. However, they possess good insulators laterally to the tube axis. The thermal conductivity of nanotubes is much higher when compared to metal such as copper. This can be proven in which carbon nanotubes (CNTs) transmit thermal at 3500 W·m−1·K−1 while copper transmits at 385 W·m−1·K−1. (Pop and et al. 2005) Carbon nanotubes can be stable at temperature up to 2800 degree celcius in vacuum and approximately 750 degree celcius in air. (Thostenson and et al., 2005)

Applications of carbon nanotubes (CNTs)

Carbon nanotubes are well-known for their special mechanical, thermal and electrical properties that are useful for a wide range of applications in materials. Carbon nanotubes can be used in several applications:

A variety of nanoparticles such as buckyballs, nanotubes, and silica nanoparticles are being used with various fibers to form nanocomposites used in sports equipment such as tennis racquets and golf balls to improve their strength or stiffness while keeping them lightweight. (Boysen and Nancy, 2011)

Nanocomposites using carbon nanotubes and polymers are being developed to make lighter-weight spacecraft.

Nanocomposites using carbon nanotubes in an epoxy are being used to make windmill blades longer, enabling the windmill to generate more electricity.

Nanoparticles of clay are used in plastic composites to reduce the leakage of carbon dioxide from plastic bottles, improving the shelf life of carbonated beverages. (Boysen and Nancy, 2011)

Composites of nanoparticles and polymers are being developed to produce lightweight, strong plastics to replace metals in cars.

Applications of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in improving the mechanical properties of sporting materials.

(i) Tennis Racquet Frame

Tennis racquet frames have been evolved from wood to aluminium and aluminium to graphite. Nowadays, the most recent and advanced tennis racquet frames have been evolved from carbon nanotubes (CNTs). CNT alone is a very strong, hard and light material which is the most ideal material used to reinforce the frame and improve the racquet's ability to absorb shocks. The demands of tournament play can be fulfilled with the incorporation of nanotechnology in sporting materials. The tennis racquet frame nowadays is done at a microscopic level to improve the racquet strength without sacrificing the lightness of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). It is made up of a light and stiff material which having a great improvement in the mechanical properties of tennis racquet over the aluminium and wood racquets of previous generations. There are a lot of open spaces between the carbon nanotubes (CNTs) when they are seen under microscope. The open spaces can be improved by filling with silicon dioxide, the most plentiful substances on earth. It exists either in the form of sand, glass or silica. By adding this material to the spaces between the nanotubes on a microscopic level, the racquet body becomes even stronger. (Belinda, 2012)This had significantly improved the mechanical properties of tennis racquets. The stiffest racquet will have their limitations as well. If they bend to a certain extent, a theoretical relation between stiffness and ball speed will exist. A stiff racquet will have only a little bending while a flexible racquet will have a higher tendency to bend. Stiff racquets will deform less and more powerful, so less ball energy is consumed in bending the racket. Unlike flexible racquets which absorbs more of the energy from impact. Therefore, modulus of elasticity which is also called Young's modulus is used for choosing right material to make the racquets. The material elongates when a tensile stress is applied to that particular material. This will affect the strain which can be defined as the ratio between the resulting change in length and the original length. Strain is directly proportional to the applied stress. A plot of stress versus strain for a given material can clearly explain the relationship between stress and strain. A plot of straight line indicates the material is behaving elastically. The Young's modulus can be obtained by just determining the slope of the straight line.

Young's modulus

Figure above which is adapted from Claires and Elizabeth, (2010), shows the change in gradient of tensile load over elongation in the steel, composite, brass and aluminium. According to the plot, steel has the highest Young's modulus due to its largest gradient. Materials with high stiffness and strength at low density are the most desirable properties in manufacturing a lightweight racquet. In order to make a racquet with high bending stiffness at low density, materials with a high value of $\sqrt {E}/\rho $ is the most desirable where $E$ is the Young's modulus and $\rho $ is the density of that particular material.


Young's Modulus, E (GPa)

Density, p (mg/m3)

√E /ρ

Strength (MPa)
















From the table above which is adapted from Claires and Elizabeth, (2010), wood can be said as the most desirable material to make a racquet due to is high bending stiffness at minimum weight. However, a lower value of Young's modulus for wood indicates that a wooden racquet will deflect more when compared to composite of metal racquet. In addition, the low strength of wood indicates that the wooden racquet tends to break when a large amount of loads is applied to the racquet head. Hence, composite such as carbon nanotube is the most favourable material to make a stiff racquet which possess bending stiffness and reduce the risk of breakage.

In tennis, carbon nanotechnology not only used to strengthen the tennis racquets by adding nanotubes to the frames which increases control and power when a ball is hit, it also helps in the reduction of rate of air leaks from tennis ball. This can prolong the time for the tennis ball to bounce. Hence, carbon nanotubes are the most desirable materials used to stiffen the shaft and head of some tennis racquets, creating a high-strength-to-weight-ratio. The incorporation of nanotechnology is proved to effectively improving the mechanical properties of sporting materials such as tennis racquets.

(ii) Strings in sports racquets

The durability and other mechanical properties of sports racquets can be improved by coating the strings used in the fabricating sports equipment such as badminton and tennis racquets. The wear and abrasion are increased when the strings in the sports racquets experience movements under large resultant force. The wear resistance and string lifetime can be enhanced by just decreasing the friction of the racquet strings which enables the strings to move easily. The strings are made up of composite materials which composed of nanoparticles, a lubricant as well as nylon. The nanoparticles inside the strings are either carbon nanotubes (CNTs) or clay particles. The CNTs can be single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs), metallic or semiconducting nanotubes. The addition of rigid nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes can effectively improve the wear resistance and mechanical properties of the lubricant materials. The combination of polymer nanocomposite as coatings with the carbon nanotubes, lubricants and impact modifier can further enhanced the wear resistance and mechanical properties of strings used in sporting materials. Hence, the lifetime of the strings can be prolonged due to its reduced frictional wear and enhanced mechanical properties. (Li and et al., 2008) The strings keep the energy by deforming. Because of their high elasticity, strings can recover from deformation more quickly resulting in almost all of the stored energy in the strings is returning back to the balls. (Takayuki Oidemizu, 2013)

(iii) Golf Ball and Golf Clubs

Besides stiffening the tennis racquets and make it even more powerful, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can be used in other sporting materials such as golf balls and golf clubs. In golf, any imperfections in the club shaft materials can be filled with nanoparticles which are the carbon nanotubes (CNTs) from nanocyl. (Azanano, 2013) By this, the uniformity of the material that makes up the shaft can be enhanced and thus improving the swing as well. This allows the golf ball to have a truer contact with the club, thus creating shots that do not travel further but straighter. When a golf shaft is made, it is not necessarily to be perfectly straight. There are often many spaces in the shaft. In this case, carbon nanotubes can play their roles by adding them into the tiny spaces of golf shaft, creating a tighter molecular structure. This makes the shaft even more uniform, denser and more consistent when applied in its raw state. As a consequence, the shaft made is even straighter than then previous one.

(iv) Sports Gear

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are chemically activated so that they can bond to epoxy, producing nanoepoxy resins. The chemical bonding between carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and epoxy had led to a composite material that is 20% to 30% stronger than that of other composite materials. These composite materials are widely used in wind turbines, marine paints, and a variety of sports gear such as skis, surfboards, hunting arrows and ice hockey sticks.

(v) Other Sports

The various unique properties especially mechanical properties have brought the various sporting materials to an even advanced, powerful and useful level. The strength of various sporting materials such as bicycle handlebars, hockey blades, baseball bats and others have been increased to a powerful level which enhance the performance of many athletes.

Other applications of nanotechnology in sporting materials other than carbon nanotubes.

An ultra-lightweight swimwear is created by the incorporation of nanotechnology in sporting materials. This allows the swimmers to practically glide through the water so that the speed of swimming can be enhanced.

Suits or clothing which can repel sweat are created by scientists made by nanofabrics. Thus can effectively leave the athletes dryer and hence enhance their performance in the racing. (NSTC, 2005)

There are nanotechnology shoes that manufactured by Adidas which designed specifically to provide more stability, better torsion, and comfort during running. Besides, the nanotechnology shoes also enable the athletes to run at increasing flexibility while minimising the energy loss. This nanotechnology shoes have been worn by Jeremy Wariner during Olympic level competition. (NSTC, 2005)

Nanotechnology has made the badminton racquets to be lighter, which not only enables more compact swing but also creating the maximum power.

Sports equipment such as pads, shoes, helmets, jerseys, socks or other related sports equipments are created by nano silver technology which possess the functions of antifungal, antibacterial and smell free. (NSTC, 2005)

Bicycle frames have been engineered to be stronger and lighter.


In a nutshell, the incorporation of nanotechnology in sporting materials such as tennis racquets, racquet strings, golf balls, golf clubs and others had brought the sports field into a more advanced and developed era. This incorporation of nanotechnology especially the carbon nanotubes (CNTs) had provided a lot of advantages in the sports era which enhance and improve the performance of athletes during a competition. The carbon nanotubes (CNTs) possess many unique characteristics such as mechanical properties, thermal properties, electrical properties and so on and have been proved to improve the properties of sporting materials especially the mechanical properties. Therefore, we can conclude that incorporation of nanotechnology in sporting materials not only enhances the mechanical properties of sporting materials, it also brings the sports to a more attractive and new era which improve the athletes' performance in sports field.