“Reimagining Home Electrical Systems with Unconventional Materials”

Reimagining Home Electrical Systems with Unconventional Materials


The electrical systems in most homes today rely primarily on copper wiring to distribute electricity. However, copper is becoming increasingly expensive, and its conductivity is limited. By exploring unconventional conductive materials, we can reimagine and revolutionize home electrical systems. In this article, I will discuss some of the most promising options and how they could change the way we power our homes.

Carbon Nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are one of the most exciting unconventional conductors. They are made of rolled up sheets of graphene and can be produced as single-walled or multi-walled tubes. The key advantages of CNTs include:

Replacing traditional wires with CNT "yarn" could enable smaller, lighter, and more efficient cables. In 2016, researchers demonstrated a CNT fiber that carries 17.6 amps per cubic millimeter, over 150x more than copper [1].

Challenges remain in scalably producing long CNT yarns at low cost. But prototypes demonstrate the huge potential. For example, in 2019, researchers at UC San Diego built CNT wiring that could transmit 50 gigabits per second - 5000x faster than Category 5 Ethernet cable [2].


Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It has exceptional conductivity properties, with electron mobility 200x higher than silicon. Like CNTs, graphene is also lightweight and very thin.

Researchers have explored using graphene wiring, transparent graphene electrodes, and graphene-based interconnects in integrated circuits. Key benefits include lower resistivity, higher current capacity, and lighter weight than copper.

Challenges with graphene include high manufacturing costs and difficulty transferring graphene from metallic growth substrates to target devices. Nonetheless, graphene's properties make it extremely promising for next-gen conductors.

Conductive Polymers

Conductive polymers like polyaniline, polypyrrole, and PEDOT:PSS consist of organic polymer chains with highly mobile electrons. While less conductive than metals, they offer unique benefits:

Researchers have turned conductive polymers into inks, paints, and 3D printable materials. This enables new forms of printed circuits and smart textiles. While unsuitable for high power transmission, they are ideal for sensors, wearables, flexible displays, and more.

Further Possibilities

Many other unusual materials demonstrate some conductive properties, including sodium-doped diamond, antimicrobial copper alloys, conductive concretes and bio-based composites. While their electrical performance is inferior to metals, they open up new applications:

By combining unconventional conductors with wireless power transmission, low-voltage electronics, and creative design, we can enable breakthroughs in energy efficiency, sustainability, and functionality. The future of residential wiring is wide open for reinvention.


Home electrical systems have relied on copper for over a century, but now face issues with rising costs and insufficient performance. New materials like CNTs, graphene, and conductive polymers offer exciting opportunities to reimagine domestic electricity transmission. Though challenges exist, their unique properties provide benefits over copper across size, weight, speed, flexibility, and more. As we creatively combine advanced materials with wireless power, sensors, and low voltage devices, the possibilities are endless for revolutionizing how our homes are wired. The next generation of residential electrical systems is sure to look very different thanks to these unconventional conductors.


  1. Behabtu, N., Young, C.C., Tsentalovich, D.E. et al. Strong, light, multifunctional fibers of carbon nanotubes with ultrahigh conductivity. Science 339, 182–186 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1228061

  2. Wang, G., Zhang, M., Zhu, Y. et al. Continuous carbon nanotube-based fibers and films for efficient energy conversion and storage. Adv Mater 31, 1804492 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.201804492