Nanostructured materials have recently attracted the attention of some materials scientists. Because of their unique properties occurring in low-dimensional structures, nanostructured materials are sought for their possible industrial applications. This article introduces a specific nanostructured material, the carbon nanorube—an extremely thin filaments of graphite considered to be a quasi one-dimensional structure, with a simple well-understood atomic structure. Because of these qualities, the carbon nanorube has elicited great interest from diverse fields of basic and technological research. My discovery of carbon nanotubes was inspired by the discovery of C60 and its family and their mass production. The carbon nanotubes were serendipitously found during the examination of fullerene materials by a high-resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM). Since introducing this technique in 1971, I have been employing HRTEM to characterize the microscopic structural details of a variety of materials, including carbonaceous materials. So far, only nanotubes have been revealed with HRTEM.
Interest in the carbon nanorube is multifold. Academically the nanotube is an ideal model structure for a quasi one-dimensional structure since its known atomic structure makes computer simulations more reliable. It is worthwhile to study both rare structures of graphite—cylindrical forms with a helical arrangement of carbon atom hexagons and flexible graphitic sheets containing topological surface defects. These materials may find practical uses as tough graphite fibers, molecular wires, catalyst supports, molecular adsorbers, and so on.