MRS Bulletin

Technical Feature

Technical Feature

Carbon Nanotubes: Continued Innovations and Challenges

M.S. Dresselhaus and H. Dai


This article outlines the content of the April 2004 issue of MRS Bulletin on Advances in Carbon Nanotubes. Essentially, carbon nanotubes are self-assembling nanostructures constructed of sheets of hexagonal-shaped carbon atoms rolled up into cylinders. Carbon nanotubes have attracted a great deal of attention as model systems for nanoscience and for potential applications. The special interest in carbon nanotubes stems from their unique structure and properties: their very small size (down to ∼0.42 nm in diameter); the possibility for carbon nanotubes to be metallic or semiconducting, depending on their geometrical structure; their exceptional properties of ballistic transport; their extremely high thermal conductivity and high optical polarizability; and the possibilities of high structural perfection. Research in the carbon nanotube field has now advanced to the stage where a good understanding of the structure and many of the basic properties are in place, together with much appreciation of their interrelation. On the other hand, major gaps in basic knowledge remain, with the major obstacles confronting the carbon nanotube field being the lack of a detailed understanding of the nanotube growth mechanism and control of the synthesis process to produce nanotubes with a desired diameter and chirality. The brief review of the carbon nanotube field by leading experts in this issue comes at an opportune time. Many exciting results on the structural, electronic, optical, and transport properties of these tiny well-ordered structures have already been achieved, and the research is well enough developed to assess present progress and identify new research directions waiting to be explored.


  • ballistic transport;
  • carbon nanotubes;
  • chemical functionalization;
  • chirality;
  • field-effect transistors;
  • fluorescence;
  • photophysics;
  • Raman spectroscopy

Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, is Institute Professor of physics and electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been active in research across broad areas of solid-state physics, especially in carbon science. Her present research activities focus on nanoscience, with special emphasis on carbon nanotubes, bismuth nanowires, low-dimensional thermo-electricity, and novel forms of carbon.

Dresselhaus received her PhD degree in physics from the University of Chicago in 1958. She joined the MIT faculty in 1967 and has been an Institute Professor since 1985. She has received the National Medal of Science and 19 honorary degrees worldwide. Dresselhaus also served as the director of the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy in 2000–2001.

Dresselhaus can be reached by e-mail at

Hongjie Dai, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, is an associate professor in the Chemistry Department at Stanford University. His research spans the areas of nanomaterials synthesis, electron transport, molecular electronics, and chemical and biological sensors.

Dai received his bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University in China in 1989 and his PhD degree in physical chemistry and applied sciences from Harvard University in 1994; he carried out postdoctoral research at Rice University from 1994 to 1997 before joining the faculty at Stanford.

Dai can be reached by e-mail at