Carbon, among the most abundant element in character, has the capability to become combined with itself and other elements by strong covalent bonds causing a variety of structures that enable the development of substances of various properties. The carbon substances can be exceedingly hard as diamond or graphite as easily delaminated, quite compact, high power (composite substances carbon / carbon), and therefore acceptable for structural applications (aircraft and racing cars), or quite porous (activated carbon); the latter being used as adsorbents for energy storage or as a support for catalysts. This broad spectrum of possessions is reinforced by the fact that only carbon materials are capable of operating at high temperatures at the most intense conditions.
But, conventional carbon materials have played an important role since ancient times (pigment in cave paintings, a part of gunpowder, writing) and have contributed to the industrial and technological evolution of our society (steel).
The discovery of carbon fibers in the’60s, with its high durability and flexibility, was a major landmark in the development of these substances. In parallel, we find that the vitreous carbon, named after filing a conchoidal fracture surface, with properties very similar to glass, very hard and brittle. At precisely the same time, the discovery of structural forms of graphitic carbon, needle and spherules, apparently contributed to the development of new carbon products for very diverse uses.
The superb biocompatibility of carbon materials, discovered from the 70s, its usage in prostheses, ligaments and heart valves, among others.
From the early’80s, the development of technology for producing blocks of high density isotropic graphite allowed its use in high temperature reactors, in apparatus of synthesis of semiconductor crystals and also to components of electric discharge electrodes.
From the 90s, was discovered nanotubes, starting a new era for carbon materials: the age of their nanostructure. It isn’t just the world of carbon graphite horizontal structures or three-dimensional kind diamond, but we’re now with shut constructions comprising pentagons of electrons and carbon tubes with diameters in the nanometer scale, manufactured from a sheet easy curved carbon atoms in hexagonal distribution. The discovery of carbon nanotubes of a single wall (solitary ) and multiple walls, stimulated the interest of scientists and engineers in areas associated with nanotechnology. At precisely the exact same time, new applications of the substances of their household of graphite, such as anode materials for Li-ion battery carbon fiber water purification, activated carbon electrodes for electrical double layer supercapacitors, etc.. .
More recently, in 2004, has been designed the isolating graphene, a flat sheet structure of an atom thick. Its exceptional electrical properties have revolutionized the field of science, finding application in electronic equipment (tablets, replacing the silicon), at the upcoming construction of space lifts, personal protection systems (RVC ) in the field of security etc.. In July 2008, researchers at Columbia University verified this is the strongest material so much identified.