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Buckypaper: A Future Material for Airplanes to TVs

Researchers from Florida State have taken a step toward making commercial-grade buckypaper - an ultra-strong, ultra-light material that could be used in a wide variety of applications. Ideally, buckypaper could be 500 times stronger than, but 10 times lighter than, the strongest steel we have today.

Ben Wang, director of Florida State's High-performance Materials Institute, with a computer screen showing a microscopic view of buckypaper. Credit: AP Photo/Phil Coale.Ben Wang, director of Florida State's High-performance Materials Institute, with a computer screen showing a microscopic view of buckypaper. Credit: AP Photo/Phil Coale.With these physical properties, plus its ability to conduct electricity, buckypaper could be used as a material for lightning protection for airplanes, to make light energy-efficient automobiles, as well as to construct powerful computers, for heat dissipation in laptops, and for improved TV screens. Other uses include being used as electrodes for fuel cells, super capacitors and batteries.

Buckypaper gets its strength due to the large surface area of each carbon nanotube that makes up the paper. Carbon nanotubes are extremely thin tubes, but when aligned, they can join together to increase their collective strength.

The scientists at Florida State recently demonstrated how to align the nanotubes in the same direction using a magnetic field. Ben Wang, director of Florida State's High-Performance Materials Institute, predicts that by the end of the year, their buckypaper composite will be as strong as the best existing composite material, called IM7, and 35 percent lighter. The researchers also plan to start up a company to commercialize the material in the near future.  

"Our plan is perhaps in the next 12 months we'll begin maybe to have some commercial products," Wang said.

via: AP News