Future planes, cars may be made of 'buckypaper'
Erik Larson | October 20, 2008 at 10:05 amby
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Have you always wanted to ride in a paper airplane? In the future, computers, TVs, cars and planes may be made from "buckypaper"; a nanotube-based material that's stronger than steel and possibly kryptonite.
Buckypaper is 10 times lighter but potentially 500 times stronger than steel when sheets of it are stacked and pressed together to form a composite. Unlike conventional composite materials, though, it conducts electricity like copper or silicon and disperses heat like steel or brass.
That idea - that there is great future promise for buckypaper and other derivatives of the ultra-tiny cylinders known as carbon nanotubes - has been floated for years now. However, researchers at Florida State University say they have made important progress that may soon turn hype into reality.
Buckypaper is made from tube-shaped carbon molecules 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Due to its unique properties, it is envisioned as a wondrous new material for light, energy-efficient aircraft and automobiles, more powerful computers, improved TV screens and many other products.
So far, buckypaper can be made at only a fraction of its potential strength, in small quantities and at a high price. The Florida State researchers are developing manufacturing techniques that soon may make it competitive with the best composite materials now available.
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