Carbon & Nano Tech Toes


Previously, you knew that carbon is 5 times stronger than steel in the same density. But what about carbon nanotechnology? Well, some of these products are 300-400 times stronger than good old iron alloys infused with carbon AKA steel!

So, if-

  1. aluminum was the new steel toe,
  2. composite toe was the newer aluminum toe,
  3. carbon nanotech is going to be the next composite toe. Stronger and better than every other thing in this planet.

Yes, they are making nanotech toes. And yes, some of them are so affordable that you can get a pair of nano safety shoes for the fraction of `premium steel toe’ price. Some big brand carbon toes only cost 50 dollars while there are 300 dollar steel toe boots! (It is the best case scenario, thus rare.)

From diamond to graphite and plants to animals- everything is made of carbon. And maybe, carbon nanobots are the definitive answers to all of our cancers but before that, humanity is going to build thousands of floors in a single tower with them and before that, every safety gear is going to bear carbon nanotech including your safety hats.

However, let us stick to our toes- it’s the future. Seems like inevitable. Your future construction and factory work shoes will come packed with them.

The 9 Article Safety Toe Series

This post is part of the safety toe series, 9 articles that mythbust, explain, suggest, and answer FAQs on:

  1. Safety toe
  2. Steel toe
  3. Composite toe
  4. The versus article (compares each type of safety toe)
  5. [this article] Carbon/nano toe
  6. Aluminum and other alloy toes
  7. Metatarsal guard
  8. Soft protective toe and abrasion resistant
  9. Soft toe

The Basic Queries Regarding Carbon Nano

What is carbon toe? What are nano toe boots and shoes?

Every safety toe has carbon mixed within. Whether it is steel, composite or any other toe. However, carbon toe, carbon fiber toe or nano toe means something else. One or more specific kind of carbon-made hyper-hard substances using nanotechnology- they are nano toes or carbon toes. Boots or shoes containing them are called nano footwear.   

Is carbon nano toe the same as composite toe? Which one is better?

No. Composite toe has an abundance of carbon but they are sewn, glued or molded together while nano toes are soley made in the molecular level. CNT or carbon nanotubes are the basic components.

Is carbon nanotech fully developed yet?

It’s evolving. You know, having nano robots in our bodies, reinforcing our bones, eradicating germs and toxins, fixing our internal micro wounds is decades away. But do you need that to protect your toes? Nope! We are in a primitive stage of carbon civilization (remember stone age, iron age, bronze age?). We are lucky to have carbon toes way before carbon age appears.  

Can you trust an evolving technology? Are big companies using them?

Why not? They are probably going to replace silicon as the basic component of micro chips. Maybe we will be able to make a space elevator. But that’s the future. Presently bigger brands like Wolverine, Red Wing, Caterpillar, Merrell, Irish Setter, Nautilus are producing carbon nano toe shoes and boots.

It is already a multi billion dollar industry. They are coating fabrics with carbon tubes for years. Our car airbags are using this technology to explode in time.

Will carbon toe boots set off metal detectors? Are they electrically safe?

No, nano toe would not set off metal detectors for themselves as there are no metals in your toe caps. Your footwear, however, needs to be metal free.

Do not forget that carbon in some from is the best electric conductor in room temperature which means that they may appear as better conductors than copper wires. They are so good conductors that electrons dancing through them can not be defined and detected unless you use Einstein’s theory of relativity. For these reasons, despite being mere carbon, these nanotubes are called semi metals. Some of them are semi conductive, some conductive and other are super conductives.

Safety Issues

Are carbon toe boots OSHA, MSHA, ASTM and/or ANSI approved?

Yes, nearly all of carbon nano toes are ANSI/ASTM tested and passed.

Are nano toe boots as safe as steel toe?

Yes. Moreover, all ASTM/ANSI/OSHA approved nano toes are safer than steel toes.

How much weight and force can a carbon toe hold?

Nano carbon is the strongest material known to science as of today. 300 times stronger than high-carbon steel (which is the strongest material used to keep huge bridges straight). However, these are required to withstand a minimum of 1.1 metric ton or 75 foot-pound  compression.

Physical Properties

Are aluminum or comp toe boots lighter than nano toe?

No, by virtue, nothing is as light as carbon nanofiber toes.

Do nano toe boots get cold?

Nah. They do not have metals, so they do not get cold as their steel counterparts. However, these are thermal conductor, which means they convey cold or hot weather. This is a 2010 Nobel Prize winning statement though!

How much do nano toe boots weigh?

Nano toes are the lightest yet strong substances. So, you have no worries for extra weight. Nano caps would not make your shoes heavier. Other components may do it. However, cobbling companies tend to make the lightest footwear with them.

Carbon Nanotube (CNT)

Carbon nanotubes are the most common components of carbon/nano safety toes. They are either carbon nanotubes or carbon nanosheets (graphenes)- which are the basic components of the tubes. Modern nanotech tubes were discovered in 1991.

The Formation of CNTs

Carbon has a magical structure. This atom can form six-handed (hexagonal) benzene-like structure with endless possibilities. Whenever a hexagonal shape make a single layered plain sheet (lattice), it is called graphene. They somewhat look like chicken wires. Graphenes are so tough that if an elephant stays on a pencil and the pencil tip puts all the pressure and weight on graphene, one single layer graphene would not break.

Now, can you imagine what would happen if the hexagonal graphene from a tube?

Being a circle, it is way tougher. That tube is called CNT or carbon nanotube.

Nanometer: Size of CNTs

One nanometer or nm (International Bureau of Weights and Measures) is a billionth of a meter. It is roughly equal to 10 helium atoms side by side. The thickness of a paper is 100 thousand nm. A thin hair has 40k nm diameter. A nanotube? The thinnest one has a diameter of 0.3nm! Now, they can be ranging from here to dozens of nanometers or even hundreds of nanometers. However, they remain unimaginably thinner than the thinnest piece of hair.

Overall Structure [morphology] of the CNT Toe (or any other CNT material per se)

Imagine, an one inch thick and 2 kilometer long strand. Each unfathomably strong. Imagine there are billions, if not trillions side by side. Now, that’s your toe cap’s ideal atomic formation in a much smaller scale. Immensely shock absorbing material, are not they?

But ‘ideal’ is not that simple. Single walled nanotubes are hard enough. But there can be budded or branched nanotubes. One tube may contain a smaller tube and that can contain more- they are called multi walled CNTs or MWCNTs. These are even tougher than single walls (SWCNT).

Now imagine they are not staying upright. Instead, they are randomly coiled together- just like a giant mount everest of thin long and branched sticky spaghetti. Say, that mount Everest is somehow turned into a super giant water reservoir (a huge hydro electric dam).  Now you are getting a real image of your hardened nano safety toe.

CarbonMax (Wolverine)

Wolverine’s special ‘carbon nanotube’ toes are the industry leaders.

As we can presume, CarbonMax can be the most confusing terminology. (It sounds sweet though). Is it carbon with iron, or with aluminum/titanium/aramid/kevlar/fiberglass/plastic?

We’ve traveled so far so good! 62 Wolverine models contain CarbonMax toe. (As far as we know). That means, one of the best brands fully depend on their proprietary innovation. That must be huge! They also meet higher standards of safety measurement.

No, they are not metal. Lighter, wider and thinner CarbonMax insulate water, heat and electricity.

As wolverine says, nanotechnology was used here. They have shown multi walled CNTs in their official videos. So, these are supposed to be the best possible type of carbon nanotube safety toes till date.

We do prefer them over steel or other alloy toes. After all, CarbonMax means maximum protection through carbon based toes. Their official clip describes `the safety toe re-imagined’ well:

Damascus Steel Swords: An Interesting History and the Future of Steel Toe

These are more mythical but the forage technique is lost forever. How strong and sharp were they? According to Becker, Otto Matthew (1910), these swords could cut through rifle barrels and a hair falling on the sharp edge used to end up cutting itself. Exaggerated? Maybe not, German scientists have found carbon nanotubes and nanowires within Damascus blades.

We can say for sure that future steel will contain a huge amount of carbon nanotubes (as iron needs carbon to from steel). They will eventually be much harder, thus requiring less steel to do things. People are already using nanotube alloys. Floyd Landis have won 2006 tour de france in his nanotube infused alloy bicycle.

Love steel toes so much that you can not leave them? Good news for you too. Sooner or later, you will get CNT rich thinner and better steel toes.  

Cons of Carbon Nanotube Toes

  1. They are no doubt, pricey (there are a number of exceptions though).
  2. They can be toxic while exposed. If inhaled, they can damage your lung tissues. (luckily, we are not exposed to them in case of safety caps, these are sealed within our boots).
  3. Researchers are not yet fully aware of their reactions with human or animal bodies.
  4. They can be highly flammable.
  5. You may need EH ratings for them as they are super electric conductors.
  6. You may need proper insulation as they convey heat (you will find them as better things than steel).
  7. CNTs themselves are simple in composition, but their collective formation may have an unlimited number of arrangements which is scarry. They can be tall, short, thin, thick, single layered, multi layered, straight, curved or even tangled or bloated.
  8. They react with certain metal or non metallic catalyst particles.
  9. Toxic substances may end up absorbed within them.    

Carbon nano sheets and tubes are the future of our civilization. These are already been used as the ultimate coating material. They will become the next waterproofing standards maybe even in boot leather. The last question is, do we put carbon toes above everything? No. We would say, choose between comp toe or nano toe. Both of them are good enough.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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