Nanotubes race toward bike parts

Easton Sports plans to produce bicycle components made out of carbon nanotubes, a step forward for the tiny technology.

Michael Kanellos
Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Sports equipment maker Easton Sports plans to start producing bicycle components constructed out of carbon nanotubes in 2005, another step forward for the budding nanotechnology industry.

Easton said Wednesday that it will use nanotubes from Zyvex in its components. Earlier this year, Richardson, Texas-based Zyvex linked up with Intel to see if its nanotubes could help dissipate heat inside PCs.

Carbon nanotubes are coils of pure carbon that exhibit a number of unusual properties. They can conduct electricity better than many metals, are light and stronger.

While chipmakers are looking at ways to integrate the tubes into circuits, airplane designers and others are trying to take advantage of the mechanical properties by inserting strands of the tubes into structures, such as airplane wings, to reduce mass and improve energy consumption.

Some car manufacturers already incorporate nanotubes and other designer molecules into their products to reduce the weight of floorboards and panels.

Easton said nanotube-enhanced components will, ideally, be stronger and lighter than today's parts. Bike manufacturers produce several parts out of carbon now, but use graphite, a more dense form of carbon.

Zyvex said that it has come up with a way to fold the tubes into composite materials without clumping. The company also produces tools for testing and producing nanotubes, which many experts believe could be the first large-scale market in the nanotech business.