bucky paper: a potential to build lighter and stronger

Imagine a future in which everything from cars, to planes, even the monitor you are reading this blog entry…constructed from paper.  If the manufacturing process is seen into successful implementation, we could have a material potentially 500 times stronger than steel, and 10 times lighter within our lifetime.

Ben Wang, a professor of industrial engineering at the Florida A&M University-FSU College of Engineering in Tallahassee, Fla., serves as director of FAC2T , which works to develop new, high-performance composite materials, as well as technologies for producing them.

The paper’s arsenal of promises in the future are pretty astounding. They include its strength and conductivity, advanced miniaturization of technology, and use in artificial muscle systems.

  • If exposed to an electric charge, buckypaper could be used to illuminate computer and television screens. It could be more energy-efficient, lighter, and could allow for a more uniform level of brightness than current cathode ray tube (CRT) and liquid crystal display (LCD) technology.
  • Since carbon nanotubes are one of the most thermally conductive materials known, buckypaper lends itself to the development of heat sinks that would allow computers and other electronic equipment to disperse heat more efficiently than is currently possible. This, in turn, could lead to even greater advances in electronic miniaturization.
  • Because carbon nanotubes have an unusually high current-carrying capacity, a buckypaper film could be applied to the exteriors of airplanes. Lightning strikes then could flow around the plane and dissipate without causing damage.
  • Films also could protect electronic circuits and devices within airplanes from electromagnetic interference, which can damage equipment and alter settings. Similarly, such films could allow military aircraft to shield their electromagnetic “signatures”, which can be detected via radar.
  • Buckypaper could act as a filter membrane to trap microparticles in air or fluid. Because the nanotubes in buckypaper are insoluble and can be functionalized with a variety of functional groups, they can selectively remove compounds or can act as a sensor.
  • Produced in high enough quantities and at an economically viable price, buckypaper composites could serve as an effective armor plating.
  • Buckypaper can be used to grow biological tissue, such as nerve cells. Buckypaper can be electrified or functionalized to encourage growth of specific types of cells.
  • The Poisson’s ratio for carbon nanotube buckypaper can be controlled and has exhibited auxetic behaviour, capable of use as artificial muscles.

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