Flying in a plane made of paper of any kind sounds dangerous, but ‘buckypaper’ isn’t paper at all, at least not what we’re used to. It’s a new type of carbon nanotube that may usher in a new lightweight, high strength composite. It was discovered accidentally while trying to create the same conditions that exist in a star. Buckypaper isn’t ready for prime-time just yet, but the potential is amazing.
The tube-shaped molecule is dispersed in liquid and then filtered through a fine mesh, creating a very thin yet powerful film, called buckypaper. The molecule has a large surface area, and that’s what gives it the incredible strength: when stacked to become a composite, you have something 10 times lighter, but maybe 500 times stronger than steel, while conducting and dispersing heat like copper. It could find a wide range of uses in areas like aviation, computers, batteries, armor, even fuel cells.