W. H. Bragg Lecture 2008

The 17 year old carbon nanotubes
Presented by Prof Sumio Iijima
Meijo University, Japan

Wednesday 08 October 2008, 16:00
University College London in the Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre

followed by a reception with light refreshments


High resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM) is a precision instrument, enabling us to look into atomic details of material structures but its principle is simple and analogous to a conventional optical microscope. The instrument played an important role in the discovery of carbon nanotubes in 1991. Since then carbon nanotubes (CNT) have attracted a lot of researchers in a wide range of fields from basic science and industry. A CNT is a nano-meter sized tubular structure of a hexagonal network of carbon atoms, which does not exist in nature and is a completely artificial product. Because of such unusual structures the CNT has various unique properties that form the basis of industrial applications, particularly in nanotechnology. The lecture starts by introducing the background of the discovery with an emphasis on the importance of HRTEM. After describing its capabilities in solving atomic structures of nano-carbon materials and CNTS by giving a few examples of HRTEM studies, dynamic observations of structural transformation of CNTs at the atomic level resolution will be presented: this has been made possible by a spherical aberration corrected HRTEM. The last part of the lecture will introduce the state of the art of dynamic observations of CNT and also graphene.


Prof Sumio Iijima is a professor at Meijo University, Nagoya since 1999 and he has been appointed as director of Nano-tube Research Center at AIST in Japan and also partly works as a Special Research Fellow at NEC.

After graduating from Tohoku University, he moved to Arizona State University where he developed high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) (1970-1982). In 1982 he returned to Japan and worked for the 5 years Japanese government research project (ERATO) on nano-particles, and joined the NEC fundamental research laboratories in 1987. In 1991 he discovered carbon nanotubes that have initiated nano-materials science and nanotechnology. The discovery honored him with numerous awards and prizes including:

  • the 2001 Franklin Medal in physics,
  • the Agilent Europhysics award,
  • the Imperial Prize,
  • the Japan Academy Prize,
  • the Person of Cultural Merits (2002).

In 2007, he was awarded the Balzan Prize (Italy-Switzerland), also elected as the foreign associate of the National Academy of Science (USA). In 2008, he has been awarded the Kavli Prize (Norway) and Prince of Asturias Award (Spain).

About the W.H. Bragg Lecture

In 2004 UCL's Department of Physics and Astronomy decided to establish a series of annual lectures celebrating major advances in condensed matter physics. The series was named after William Henry Bragg, who was the Head of Department from 1915 to 1923. X-ray diffraction analysis of crystal structures began with W. H. Bragg’s instrumentation and insight, and with the availability of synchrotron sources it has developed into an important tool in modern biology.

Information poster: [PDF file]


to go to  the Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre please enter UCL through the gate adjacent to number 3 Gower Place. Alternatively go to  the back of the UCL Union & Mathematics building on 25 Gordon Street.[see grid  D1 on the  UCL map]