Buckypaper To Go Commercial Soon

Buckypaper is a material made up of nanotubes, flexible films 10-20 micrometers in thickness. It is very light in weight, just 21.5 grams per square meter. And it has unusual properties, being one of the strongest materials known, with an electrical conductivity like copper and greater thermal conductivity than diamond.

(Buckypaper examples)

Buckypaper was predicted to have a wide variety of applications:

  • As 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 it has an unusually high current-carrying capacity, a film made from buckypaper could be applied to the exteriors of airplanes. Lightning strikes then would 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.

At present, buckypaper is only made in the laboratory, but researchers at Florida State are in the process of creating a company to produce buckypaper commercially. The first anticipated uses are expected in electromagnetic interference shielding and lightning-strike protection on aircraft.

Buckypaper has been under research since at least 2000, but this is the first time that it appears that the remarkable material will become available in quantity for commercial use.

Research at Florida State has been funded in part by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control; their chief technologist Les Kramer remarks "If this thing goes into production, this very well could be a very, very game-changing or revolutionary technology to the aerospace business."

Battlestar Galactica viewers might be thinking that the Blackbird fighters are a little bit closer to reality. According to the show:

The Blackbird uses black-colored carbon composite materials that make it largely undetectable by DRADIS and unaided visual viewing. This was a practical consideration in light of all metal being reserved for Viper repairs.

(Blackbird fighter from Battlestar Galactica)

From Future planes, cars may be made of `buckypaper' and this very nice 2005 article from Physorg; see also a buckypaper origami crane. Thanks to Moira and Jeff for contributing tips on this story.

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