Carbon is Paving the Way


Nanotechnology is contributing to the protection and enhancement of our products, from the Juno spacecraft and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the Littoral Combat Ship. Every material in these systems is critical to the success of the final product…right down to the smallest piece, literally.

Nanotechnology, the study and application of extremely small things with dimensions between one and 100 nanometers (less than one hundred-thousandth of the thickness of a human hair), is revolutionizing the way we think about materials.

In fact, materials are a key discriminator for everything Lockheed Martin builds -affecting size, weight, speed, durability and all other aspects of performance.

“From advanced polymers and composites to computer memory, nanotechnology improves performance and reduces cost for many of our most important products,” said Brad Pietras, Lockheed Martin vice president, Corporate Engineering and Technology. “Today and into the future, nanotechnology will remain one of our most important areas of innovative research and development.”

A Materials Revolution
Engineering at the nanometer-scale opens up a new world of material properties. With nanotechnology, we can design nanometer-scale structures that deliver ultra-light-weight and multi-functional materials. Carbon, one of the most abundant elements on Earth and a basic building block of life, provides one of the best raw materials for nanotechnology. Far more than just diamonds or pencil “lead,” carbon has the potential to revolutionize everything from electronics to medical diagnostics and treatment. The discovery of fullerenes – a new form of carbon shaped like a nanometer-scale soccer ball – in the mid-1980s, opened the door to research and development on a remarkable new class of materials, including carbon nanotubes (CNT) and graphene.

CNT are like straws of pure carbon bonded in hexagons - imagine a rolled up piece of chicken wire where the intersections are carbon atoms and the lines between them are the bonds. Just one-sixth of the density of steel but 100 times stronger, in many ways, CNT is the poster child of nanotechnology that launched a materials revolution.

Lockheed Martin’s focus on carbon-based nanomaterials is not just for future applications. Our innovative CNT-based chemical sensor platform can be tuned to detect a wide range of gases and volatile organic compounds. CNT fabrics are at the heart of Lockheed Martin’s nano-electronics work – producing memory and logic devices that deliver high performance in space and other demanding environments.

The fairly recent discovery of graphene, another form of carbon, is leading to ground breaking work. Thought of as an unrolled sheet of CNT just one atom thick, graphene is incredibly strong and exhibits remarkable mechanical and conductive properties. In fact, graphene is the strongest known material. Lockheed Martin’s work harnessing graphene’s unique characteristics will enable new multifunctional structures as well as high efficiency filtration.

All of these promising carbon-based applications are just the beginning. Lockheed Martin scientists and technologists are partnering with some of the brightest academic and industrial minds to innovate nanotechnologies with silicon, copper and other elements to help address the global issues like sustainability, energy management, healthcare and security.

August 26, 2013


Nanotechnology holds great promise. With nano-knowhow, we can improve the size, weight, power and performance of systems, while at the same time, reduce costs. These small materials will have a big impact on our future – and it’s where we start our Innovation with Purpose technology series. Join us as we explore Innovation with Purpose and other emerging technologies that will help address some of our world’s most pressing challenges today and well into the future.  

Speaking of the Future: Nanotechnology

Imagine a world where unique phenomena at the molecular scale can lead to entirely new, innovative, and transformative product designs—all done by harnessing properties of materials at the nanoscale level.



Nanotechnology is contributing to the protection and enhancement of our products, from the Juno spacecraft and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the Littoral Combat Ship.