As inventors in the early 1900s vied to devise the best incandescent lightbulb, tungsten won out over carbon for making filaments. Today, however, there's a form of carbon that was unknown back then—the carbon nanotube.
New experiments on fibers synthesized from those minuscule cylinders suggest that carbon may be the filament champ after all, says Bingqing Wei of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Not all scientists are convinced, however.
Individual carbon nanotubes, each only a few atoms in diameter, exhibit remarkable traits. For instance, they're superstrong and can behave like transistors (SN: 2/7/04, p. 87: Virtual Nanotech). Recent