Researchers in the UK have taken a significant step toward the ability to produce carbon nanotubes en masse.

Carbon nanotubes will change the world when they can be produced in large volumes for a reasonable cost.

The somewhat wondrous material is outstandingly light, strong and capable of conducting electricity, making it perfect for applications spanning almost the entire technological spectrum. Current techniques for producing nanotubes result in a massive tangled ball of the single-nanometre wires, which then takes a crazy-making amount of time to unwind so strands can be extracted and used.

Scientists at the Imperial Collge London have now created a method which gives the nanotubes an electrical charge, enabling individual tubes to be pulled apart. Using this method, nanotubes can be sorted or refined, then deposited in a uniform layer onto the surface of any object.

The British team, working with an industrial partner, say they have produced an electrically-conductive carbon nanotube ink, which coats carbon nanotubes onto ultra-thin sheets of transparent film that are used to manufacture flat-screen televisions and computer screens.

The technique is now being scaled-up for industrial manufacture, which could soon lead to a massive increase in the ability to produce and use the next-generation material.

The Imperial College has created a video to explain the process in more detail.

The latest research has been published in the journals Nature Communications and ACS Nano.