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Carbon nanotubes are allotropes of carbon*. An allotrope exists when the molecules of a certain atom are bonded together in a different way. In the case of carbon nanotubes, the carbon takes a cylindrical shape and is held together by Van der Waals forces (weak intermolecular forces). Although it is debatable, the discovery of carbon nanotubes is widely attributed Sumio Iijima (NEC) in 1991. Others say that carbon nanotubes were originally observed in 1976, by Oberlin, Endo, and Koyama. There are even those who claim that carbon nanotubes were first seen by Russian scientists in 1952 (2). One thing that is not debatable is the usefulness of carbon nanotubes. Their applications reach wide, ranging from medicine and aerospace to sports and war. What makes these little tubes so useful is their surprisingly excellent conductivity (carbon is normally a bad conductor of electricity) and their outstanding tensile strength. In fact, carbon nanotubes have the potential to be the strongest existing material in terms of tensile strength. But thatís just scratching the surface. Check out some of the other pages on carbon nanotubes to learn more about what they do and how they do it.